Ministers have confirmed that the UK government is directly commissioning the construction of up to 13,000 new residences on public land.
Smaller developers will be able to purchase sites with planning permission already in place, with an anticipated 40% of the new homes to be so-called ‘starters’ intended for first-time buyers.
Prime Minister David Cameron said that this move was a major shift in UK government policy. Labour expressed scepticism, saying the PM was using "rhetoric to hide his failure on new homes".
Shadow housing minister John Healey stated that the move did not guarantee affordable homes or new investment beyond what has already been announced.
By directly commissioning land, the government assumes responsibility for developing it, as opposed to larger building firms.
Greg Clark, Communities Secretary, recently commented that the government was “pulling out all the stops” to encourage building activity throughout the country. He said that 90% of people want to acquire their own home, and for years home ownership has been declining.
Mr. Clark said that the eight largest building firms in the country produced 50% of the housebuilding market, and pointed out the need for small and medium companies to get more involved.
Calling the move a “radical new policy shift”, Downing Street stated its intention to build up to 13,000 new homes on five public sites this year. Up to 40% of these new residences will be affordable “starter” homes.
In December 2014 Danny Alexander, former Lib Dem chief secretary to the Treasury, announced a new plan for the government to commission, build, and even sell properties at an ex-RAF base in Cambridgeshire.
BBC home editor Mark Easton commented that the move was a Conservative ideological shift, saying that even 13,000 new homes was a miniscule percentage of the million properties the government wants to build by 2020.
The government has announced its intention to build 200,000 starter homes intended for new buyers under for 40 at a discounted price of at least 20%. These discounts are applied to homes valued at up to £250,000 outside London. For properties in the capital, the threshold is £450,000.
Critics say that the starter homes remain too expensive for many people. While speaking at a housing development in east London, Mr Cameron reminded everyone that affordable housing was defined as residences that “someone can afford to buy or rent.”