House building falling behind target as new starts fall

The government’s efforts to boost the housing market have suffered a setback after official figures showed that the number of housing starts in England dipped massively in the first three months of the year.

Total starts for the financial year were 139,680, up by 1 per cent but well below the 250,000 experts agree is needed. The government has set itself a target of a million new homes over the parliament to address the housing shortage and these latest figures show that much more work is needed if that target is to be met.

The government claims that the number of newly built homes is now at its highest level since 2008 to 2009, according to new figures from the Department for Communities and Local Government, but this is coming from a very low base and is not keeping up with the number of houses needed. Reflecting that low base, the 139,690 new homes completed in the year to March is a rise of 12% on the previous year.

Housing and planning minister Brandon Lewis tried to put a gloss on the figures by claiming that they represented progress. “We’ve got the country building again and are seeing our housebuilding efforts paying-off with this considerable increase in the number of homes built in just one year," he said. This is real progress but there is more to do. That’s why we are going further and increasing our investment in housebuilding.”

The figures announced by the DCLG show regional growth in Wakefield and London experiencing high levels of completions. Delivery in London saw 32% more homes being built in 2015 to 2016 than the previous year with local authorities in Basildon and Haringey seeing completions soar 279% and 1,039% respectively over the same period.

Given the accute need for more homes, particularly in th eaffordable sector, the industry will be looking for greater commitment from government over the months ahead.

The latest DCLG figures can be found in the report, The House building in England: January to March 2016, which record the number of new build homes completed and started during the quarter January to March. It uses data sourced from building control officers at local authorities, the National House Building Council and independent inspectors.

Download the report here.


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