“Housing starts are 89 per cent higher than the trough [Labour] left us in in 2009.”
David Cameron, Prime Minister’s Questions, 22 January 2014
Andrew Slaughter, Prime Minister’s Questions, 22 January 2014
Over at the House of Commons today, they did talk about housing, but there wasn’t much in common.
“New starts in affordable homes have fallen by a third since 2010,” Andrew Slaughter, the Labour MP for Hammersmith, claimed. He asked: “Why is that, is it in part because Tory councils like Hammersmith and Fulham are demolishing council homes, the most affordable type of housing, and selling the land for exclusively private development?”
David Cameron didn’t agree. “I’m afraid he’s got his figures wrong,” he began. “Housing starts are 89 per cent higher than the trough they [Labour] left us in 2009. And when it comes to affordable homes, we’ve already delivered over 100,000 affordable homes, we’ll deliver 170,000 in total by 2015, and the rate of affordable housebuilding will soon be the highest it’s been for decades.”
It’s a sore point for both sides. Housing is an extremely thorny issue – from affordable homes, to first time buyers, to rents. Neither party will want to be seen as the one to have made things any worse.
So who’s right on this one? FactCheck’s had a look.
Taking Mr Cameron’s first point – about housing starts – we’ve already picked him up on it, and there’s reason to do it again.
This is a quote from the report his figures are based on – published by the Department for Communities and Local Government in November last year: “Seasonally adjusted starts are now 89 per cent above the trough in the March quarter 2009.”
So Mr Cameron is right – in fact he’s nearly quoted the report word for word.
The problem is he hasn’t finished the sentence he’s quoting. The whole sentence actually reads like this: “Seasonally adjusted starts are now 89 per cent above the trough in the March quarter 2009 but 34 per cent below the March quarter 2007 peak.
“Completions are 40 per cent below their March quarter 2007 peak.”
So it’s too early to claim success. Housing starts are up compared to the depths of the recession – which isn’t hugely encouraging in itself – but they haven’t reached pre-recessionary levels, and completions haven’t done much better.
But none of this actually answers the question Mr Slaughter was asking about.
We’ve checked out Mr Slaughter’s claim – that affordable housing is down by a third since 2010. He based his claim on affordable housing starts and completions funded by the Homes and Communities Agency and the Greater London Authority.
In the financial year 2009-10, there were 53,917 affordable home starts; 55,909 in 2010/11; 51,721 in 2011/12, and then a drop to to 36,206 by 2012-13.
We also asked Number 10 to source Mr Cameron’s claim to have delivered 100,000 affordable homes, and they directed us towards a press release from November last year.
So this claim is also correct, but what the figure masks is the fact that the number of affordable houses being delivered per year is at its lowest level since 2005.
Overall, the number of affordable homes being delivered by the coalition government has decreased since 2010-11, barring the first year it was in power.
The number has declined by 29 per cent, from 60,480 in 2010-11, to 42,830 in 2012-13.
Mr Cameron’s been correct in what he’s said, but he’s certainly been selective in what he’s chosen to talk about.
His first answer is only half of an important sentence in a departmental report, and his second masks the fact that the provision of affordable housing has actually become more scarce under this government.
Back in 2007, he said: “There is an urgent need for more affordable homes.”
Now he’s been in power for three years, it unfortunately still remains the case.