BUILDING work on affordable homes in Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole has been heavily reduced as a result of the pandemic, figures show.

Homes England data shows building started or was completed on 40 affordable homes in the conurbation in 2020-21 – 219 fewer than in the previous year.

Homes England is sponsored by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government to fund new affordable housing schemes.

Of the schemes finished in the year to March, 20 affordable homes were completed in the area, including 19 social rentals and one affordable ownership home.

Across England, 28,191 affordable homes were started in 2020-21 – 21 per cent fewer than the previous year.

The proportion of affordable homes completed also dropped by 15 per cent, to 24,023.

Housing charity Shelter said with over a million households on the waiting list for a social home, any drop in affordable house building was a big problem.

Polly Neate, the charity’s chief executive, said: “If this slowdown continues because developers lose confidence, the dream of a safe and secure future gets even further out of reach for many.

“This just shows that we can’t only rely on private developers to build the housing we need – the Government needs to pull its weight and start building homes itself too.

“By investing in a new generation of social housing, it could provide families with genuinely affordable homes while also supporting the construction industry and boosting the economy.”

Peter Freeman, Homes England chairman, said he was confident the housing sector would recover, with help from a new £12 billion Government-backed scheme to develop affordable housing.

He added: “The statistics show that we’ve kept making homes happen despite the huge impact of Covid-19 on the housing industry.

“We know there are still hurdles to overcome but we’re encouraged by recent data to suggest the sector is recovering well.”

Councillor Robert Lawton, BCP Council portfolio holder for housing, said: “The council is working hard to scale up its internal capabilities to help deliver more much needed new homes locally, including affordable homes."

He said the authority was working with developers and housing associations with "ambitious new build plans", and itself aims to deliver "at least 1,000 new homes over the next five years", including affordable housing, on various council-owned sites.

“The council is also exploring the introduction of an Urban Regeneration Company to facilitate the development of major sites such as Holes Bay, and ensure that additional expertise in design, planning and development is available to inform future housing developments and create attractive, sustainable local neighbourhoods," he said.

“However, housing development sites take many years to get through to completion and the Covid lockdowns have unfortunately stalled some of these projects – some sites were closed, productivity of labour has been slower due to the need for social distancing and access to supplies continues to be an issue.

"We are however committed locally to doing all with can working with our partners and maximising the use of our land and assets to build the homes our residents need.

"We look forward to this scaled up activity coming through with much needed homes being completed over the next few years.”