PM Cameron visiting a government housing projectNumber 10

A new housing development is one step closer to realisation after almost 15 years, in a move which is set to provide 10,000 low-cost houses in the north Cambridge area.

The Northstowe site, which is the first planned new town in years, is one of five sites that is to benefit from a pilot scheme in which the government will directly commission thousands of new homes.

The first wave of development will involve the construction of 13,000 homes, of which 40 per cent will be starter homes, and will also include sites in Connaught Barracks, Lower Graylingwell and Old Oak Common.

If fully rolled out, the scheme would fast-track the creation of at least 30,000 new starter homes on 500 new sites by 2020.

The pilot scheme is backed up by a newly announced £1.2 billion starter home fund, which will prepare brownfield sites like Northstowe, based on the site of the former RAF Oakington base, for new homes.

However, some have criticised the government’s plans. John Healey, shadow minister for housing and planning, criticised George Osborne for trying to “spin his halving of public housing investment as an increase”.

On top of this, first-time buyers will be limited in what they can purchase as starter homes in Cambridge will have a maximum discounted value of £250,000.

A local estate agent told Cambridge News that “first-time buyers would be limited to the type of properties – probably just studio-flats and one and two-bed apartments – that would qualify.”

There have been suggestions that the government is trying to paper over cracks in a broader policy for affordable housing, which comes at the same time as the government’s controversial housing and planning bill reaches report stage in Commons.

This bill has been criticised for extending the right to buy to housing association tenants, and the introduction of ‘pay to stay’ charges for tenants in council houses earning more than £30,000 per household per year.

The new homes would be exempt from the community infrastructure levy and section 106 obligations to build social housing. Critics have argued that this weakens the long-term sustainability of affordable housing.