Posted by: Jules Birch12/06/2012
Affordable rent may have kicked in at last but affordable housing starts are still down 57 per cent on a year ago. Get set for another row about stats.
It is of course pure coincidence but 24 hours after Jack Dromey and Labour went to the blankets in the housing stats war with Grant Shapps (well, ok, referred him to the UK Statistics Authority) perhaps the most politically sensitive of all figures were published this morning.
Six months ago the Homes and Communities Agency (HCA) published its affordable housing figures, they showed a calamitous 97 per cent fall in starts on the previous year to just 429 between April and September. They were released with no fanfare within 48 hours of the launch of the government’s housing strategy and led to extensive recriminations.
There was no such news background for this morning’s publication of the full year stats – just the opening of the biggest housing conference of the year.
So, at the risk of sparking off another stats row, here are the two very different sides to the story.
In the Grant Shapps corner, affordable housing starts are more than 30 times what were six months ago, up from 429 in April-September 2011 to 15,269 in October to March. That’s mainly thanks to the first 11,130 starts under the affordable rent scheme but starts of social rented homes trebled to 789 and starts for affordable home ownership were almost 20 times higher at 3,278.
In the Jack Dromey corner, total affordable starts for 2011/12 are down by 68 per cent on 2010/11 and social rented starts are down by 97 per cent (yes, that figure again, from 35,690 to 1,048).
The midpoint comparison between October to March 2012 with the same period a year ago leaves total affordable starts down 57 per cent from 35,737 to 15,269. Starts for affordable home ownership are also down by more than half and social rented starts are down, yes, 97 per cent from 26,330 to 789.
All of these figures exclude open market starts delivered under the HCA programme (4,269 in 2011/12 against 8,265 in 2010/11). These are ‘delivered under the Property and Regeneration Programme include some starts and completions which are made available at below market price or rents but do not meet the definition for affordable housing’.
So there’s some support there for the government’s argument that the calamitous fall six months ago was down to a hiatus in the programme as affordable rent got going but not much. Just as the point when investment in housebuilding could be generating the homes and jobs we need it is falling.
The HCA concentrated on the fact that it had met its target for completions. Here rhe figures do not oscillate as wildly but show a similar patter to starts. Total affordable completions were three times higher in October to March than April-September last year at 38,877. There were the first 1,685 affordable rent completions, about four times more for affordable home ownership and more than twice as many for social rent.
Compared with the same period a year ago, total affordable completions were up 7 per cent at 38,877, with social rented starts down slightly.
Taking 2011/12 as a whole, affordable completions were down 7.5 per cent from 55,860 to 51,665 and were down slightly for both social rent and affordable home ownership. Taking total completions under the HCA programme (including open market) were down from 64,277 to 59,451, which was comfortably ahead of its target of 41,000.
So plenty of ammunition there for another stats war there and for the Labour and Conservative news lines. However, whatever, the underlying trend, and whether there is a further recovery in the total numbers this year, the balance of what constitutes ‘affordable’ has shifted decisively away from social renting.
From Inside edge
Housing commentator Jules Birch puts the latest news in context