House building continues to climb, but industry says more still needs to be done

The latest statistics published today show 36,230 new housing starts in England between April and June of this year, an increase of 18% on the same quarter last year.

It brings the total number of starts over the last 12 months to 137,780, a 22% increase on the previous year and the highest level of house building since 2007. But quarterly starts still remain 26% and completions 39% below their March 2007 peak.

Almost 40,000 households have bought a home through Help to Buy, with over 80% of sales going to first time buyers purchasing new build homes. The direct result is a 34% increase in private house building during the first year of the scheme.

At the same time the construction sector has been growing for 15 consecutive months, and is currently experiencing the sharpest rise in house building orders since 2003, while companies are taking on new workers at the fastest rate since 1997.

A growing pipeline of new projects is also emerging from the reformed planning system. Last year successful applications for major housing schemes were up 23%, and planning permissions were granted for 216,000 new homes.

Grainia Long, chief executive of the Chartered Institute of Housing (CIH), said: “It is encouraging to see an increase in the number of new homes started and completed in the year to June. However, even though annual completions rose by seven per cent during that period to 114,440, that’s still less than half the number we need to be building to accommodate our growing population.

“Most importantly quarterly starts remain 26% and completions 39% below their March 2007 peak, which shows we have an awful lot of ground to make up if we are to have any hope of tackling our national housing crisis. Building more homes for social rent, private rent and home ownership is vital if we are to help the millions of people who are being denied access to a decent home at a price they can afford.”

Duncan Kreeger, director of lender West One Loans, added: “The tide is gradually moving in the right direction. But the UK property industry can’t forever compare itself against the benchmark of its deepest troughs. We still need to provide twice as many homes again every year – and now the goal must be real progress.

“Planning changes are one thing, and are getting projects flowing. But today’s figures demonstrate the other, financial, bottleneck: house builders are completing current projects first before starting on new sites. For the required numbers of homes we’ve got to get started right away, as soon as sites become available.”

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