Top civil servant admits MHCLG housing target currently unachievable

30 Apr 19

The government does not yet have “all the ingredients” it needs to hit its target of 300,000 new homes by 2025, according to a leading civil servant.

Permanent secretary at the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government Melanie Dawes has told MPs that the target is “very challenging”.

Announcements in the Spending Review were key to working out how far the department could go to achieving its target, she added.

Dawes told the Public Accounts Committee yesterday: “We have got a pretty comprehensive strategy but wouldn’t say at this stage that we have all the ingredients we need to get the 300,00 on the table.

“In particular, we don’t have information yet on our capital budgets beyond this Spending Review period.”

Discussing the 300,000 target, which was set out in the 2017 Conservative manifesto, Dawes said: “It is very ambitious – the country has not achieved these levels of housebuilding since before the Second World War.

“It’s very challenging but we have seen some early signs that are very encouraging.”

The average number of new homes built annually between 2005-6 and 2017-18 was 177,000, with 222,000 being built last year.

Questioned on whether the ministry had set out annual projections for the number of houses it wants to see built a year, Dawes could not give specific figures.

She said: “At this stage we don’t have an annual year by year projection, it’s a bit too early for that. We need some building blocks – in particular the Spending Review capital allocations – to be put into place but we would expect to see the levels of housebuilding that we have had this last year and in the previous year sustained and increased gradually.”

Dawes said that to reach the target of 300,000 new homes, small builders would need to play a greater role and she said Homes England would be put on a “much stronger footing for the future”.

Simon Ridley, director general decentralisation and growth at MHCLG, told the committee that local authorities also had a part to play and are being supported through the planning advisory service and the £16m planning advisory grant.

Ridley also note that local government would be able to increase their housebuilding following the lifting of the HRA borrowing cap, announced by prime minister Theresa May in October.

Did you enjoy this article?