The number of new affordable homes sunk to a record low last year, according to official figures. The Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) said there were 32,110 new affordable homes delivered in 2015-16, the lowest since 1991-92, when records began.
Homes classed as affordable include those with sub-market rents, such as social housing, and some for purchase, such as shared ownership. Year-on-year, the number of new affordable units plummeted by 52% "reflecting the transition to the new affordable housing programmes, with supply planned to increase over the next five years," said the statistical report.
The DCLG played down the low figures, arguing that as this is the first year of a new five-year housebuilding cycle, numbers are normally lower. "Building more homes is an absolute priority for this government, which is why we have doubled the housing budget to £8bn and we now have the largest affordable housing programme in 40 years," said a spokesman to the BBC.
"Furthermore, latest figures out this week show overall housebuilding is at its highest level in eight years and we will be publishing our White Paper shortly, setting out our plans to build more homes and more quickly."
But John Healey, Labour's shadow housing minister, labelled the figures "disastrous" and accused the government of "doing too little to fix the housing crisis for millions of people who are just managing to cover their housing costs".
"And as an insult to the public's intelligence, the government tries to hide their failure to build more affordable homes by branding more homes as 'affordable'," Healey said. "The Conservative definition of 'affordable housing' now includes homes close to full market rent and those on sale for up to £450,000."
There is a serious housing shortage in some areas of the country, particularly London and the south east of England, which has driven up rents and house prices in recent years. Overall, housebuilding is running well short of demand, estimated to be for between 250,000 and 300,000 new units a year. There were 142,390 completions in England and Wales in 2015, show DCLG figures, a 20% annual rise.