Phantom Homes: Nearly one in three houses don’t get built despite being given go-ahead

Housebuilders have failed to build more than 320,000 homes in the past five years even after being given the go-ahead, according to new research out today.

Figures from housing charity Shelter reveal this equates to nearly one in every three homes in England granted residential planning permission in the past five years. The problem is particularly acute in London where one in two remain unbuilt ‘Phantom Homes’.

In the same time period, the profits of the country’s top five housebuilders have soared by an astronomical 388% to a total of £3.3bn in 2016, according to the research.

Developer profit margins also increased over this time, along with payouts to their shareholders which rose to nearly £1 billion a year.

Shelter is warning that the country’s current housebuilding system encourages developers to sit on land and drip out new homes so as to keep prices high. The housing charity is calling on the government to get tough on developers by giving councils the power to tax those who aren’t building fast enough, as well as taking forwards policies outlined in the housing White Paper like granting planning permission to developers based on their track record.

Anne Baxendale, head of communications, policy and campaigns at Shelter, said:

“Housebuilders are trickling out a handful of poor quality homes at a snail’s pace meaning there are simply not enough affordable homes and ordinary working families are bearing the brunt.

“While people across the country struggle with eye-wateringly high housing costs, developers’ profits are soaring into the billions. Time and again we hear the ‘red tape’ of the planning system being blamed but the real problem is a system where developers make more profit sitting on land than they would by building homes.

“It’s clear our housebuilding system has failed the nation but the government can turn things around by supporting a whole new approach. Shelter’s New Civic Housebuilding model listens to the needs of communities and gives more powers to councils to get developers building the high-quality genuinely affordable homes we need.”

Elizabeth, 35, rents in Worthing with her husband and their two children. She feels they have been completely priced out of owning a home of their own.

“My husband and I have been renting since we met 13 years ago. Despite him working his way up to a management position and myself working long hours, we’ve never been in a position to save anywhere near enough for a deposit on a house.

“We’ve more or less given up on the idea now. With two teenage children we need a place that can fit a whole family but that just seems impossible. Maybe when our children have grown up and left home we can finally get a small place for the two of us but it breaks my heart that we will never have a real family home of our own.”