The government is considering the inclusion of rental properties in its target to build 200,000 starter homes by the end of the decade as part of a shift in focus from home ownership to the private rented sector (PRS), the housing minister has revealed.

Gavin Barwell at REsi

At this week’s RESI conference, Gavin Barwell warned that focusing solely on policies to encourage ownership could prevent more homes from being built.

“There’s a little bit of a tension between the overall supply objective and measures specifically to help people onto the housing ladder,” Barwell (pictured) said.

Asked whether the government still wanted to deliver 200,000 starter homes by 2020, Barwell said the government may allow other tenure types – such as discounted rent – in that figure.

The government previously defined starter homes as properties that would be offered for sale at a 20% discount for first-time buyers.

“It’s obviously a manifesto commitment that we have, what I’ve got to look at is can we have a wider range of products in terms of affordable housing, and not just say that the only thing that qualifies is this one [tenure type],” he said.

“The way you make housing in this country more affordable to rent and more to buy is you build more homes. There is still a role for the government doing specific things to help people onto the first rung but this can’t be at the exclusion of all else.”

Barwell: More institutional funding needed for PRS

Barwell insisted that he would not “fundamentally shift” policy away from ownership because most people still wanted to buy their own homes. But the private rented sector will prove “so important” to solving the housing crisis, he said.

“A growing number of families are choosing the PRS, and while home ownership is still the goal for the majority, many will rent for some years before they buy,” he added.

PRS developers welcomed the news. Martin Bellinger, chief operating officer at Essential Living, said: “Gavin Barwell’s open hand to the build-to-rent market is very welcome, and the recognition of the role institutions can play in funding new homes quickly underlines the opportunity here for Britain.”