Labour makes misleading claim about fall in affordable housing under Conservative government

15 June 2022
What was claimed

There has been a 95% fall in new affordable homes to buy under the Conservatives.

Our verdict

This is based on a misleading analysis of official statistics. A like-for-like comparison of the number of affordable and shared ownership homes available to buy between 2009/10 and 2020/21 puts the fall at 18%.

The Labour Party has claimed on both Facebook and Twitter that the supply of new affordable homes available to buy has fallen by 95% under the Conservatives. 

This is based on a misleading comparison between two figures that aren’t directly comparable, namely the number of new homes for sale classed as “affordable” in 2009/10 including those with shared ownership, and the number in 2020/21 excluding those with shared ownership. 

The number of new “affordable” homes available to buy, including those with shared ownership, has fallen between these years, but to a far smaller extent. 

The posts were also shared by prominent social media accounts linked to the Labour Party, including those of two shadow ministers

Labour’s calculations 

Labour didn’t cite its sources for this claim in its social media posts, but a spokesperson for the party told Full Fact that the calculation was based on figures for England published by the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC). 

Housing is a devolved matter, so if we’re looking at the Conservative’s record on building new affordable homes it makes the most sense to look at the data of England alone. 

We wrote very recently about the same figures being misleadingly used by Boris Johnson to claim that the Conservative-led coalition government with the Liberal Democrats had built more affordable housing in one year than the previous Labour government had in 13 years. 

Labour calculated a 95% fall by taking the total number of new affordable homes made available to buy in England in 2009/2010 (22,244) and comparing it to the same number in 2020/2021 (1,141) —the most recent year available. 

On the surface this looks relatively straightforward, but in reality these numbers can’t be directly compared to one another. 

These numbers aren’t like for like 

In 2015 the government changed how it records the number of new homes available under affordable home ownership. 

Prior to the annual data being released for 2014/2015, this total included both shared ownership and outright ownership. 

From 2014/15, this category was split in two. For example, in 2013/2014, there were 10,940 new homes made available in the affordable home ownership category. The next year this fell dramatically to 3,535, but the number of new homes made available under shared ownership—a category that had not existed before in the data—was 11,128. 

Combined, as they would have been a year earlier, this would have amounted to 14,663 new affordable homes available to buy. 

To make comparisons over time, DLUHC combines these two categories, as seen in a statistical release published by the department in November. 

In 2020/2021, the year Labour compared with 2009/2010 (which was the final year with a Labour government), there were 1,141 new affordable homes made available to buy under affordable home ownership schemes, and 17,097 new affordable homes under shared ownership—a total of 18,238. 

This is a fall of 18% from 2009/10, rather than 95% as Labour suggested.

So Labour isn’t wrong to say that the supply of new affordable housing has fallen between these years, but the claim it has fallen by 95% is wrong, because it comes from comparing incompatible figures. 

A DLUHC spokesperson said Labour were “missing shared ownership from their figures”, explaining—as we have set out above—that the statistics were changed in 2014/2015. They explained that this was due to a new question about affordable shared ownership schemes being introduced in the survey carried out by Homes England (then the Homes and Communities Agency) on which the figures are based. 

We approached the Labour Party for further comment but did not receive a response by the time of publication.

 Image courtesy of Maria Ziegler

We took a stand for good information.

After we published this fact check, we contacted the Labour Party to request a correction regarding this claim.

Labour did not respond but it has subsequently posted an updated graphic with the correct information. 

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