Chair of Homes and Communities Agency close to admitting defeat on plan to build 2 million homes

Government plans to build 2 million homes by 2016 have been all but abandoned, the new chair of the Homes and Communities Agency has admitted to Building.

Robert Napier, in an exclusive interview, said it was now “too difficult to tell” whether it was still possible to build 2 million homes before 2016, because of the sharp decline in the housing market since the credit crunch hit.

However, he insisted it was still possible that the government’s target of building 3 million by 2020 would be hit. Prime minister Gordon Brown set the two targets last July in order to ease the housing crisis.

Napier said: “Can we build 3 million by 2020? Yes, probably. I’m not going to get quoted on the 2016 target, it’s too difficult to tell. All I know is that we need to.”

Housing minister Caroline Flint and HCA chief executive Sir Bob Kerslake have previously failed to confirm that the government still aims to meet the 2016 target, instead restating the 2020 target. Napier said: “Absolutely they talked about 2020.

Well, I’m going down the same route. But that’s just being realistic. It’s not a failure. We want to get as many houses built as we can sensibly do.”

Napier has already said that regeneration agency English Partnerships, of which he is also chair until it becomes the HCA later this year, was looking to renegotiate its housing targets with the communities department in the light of the credit crunch. He again refused to say exactly what the new targets would be, but said: “I wouldn’t say they were going to be down unless they were going to be down by a number that would be noticed.”

Napier was speaking in advance of this week’s government announcement of a rescue package for the housing market.