House building in England picked up toward the end of last year, but remains substantially below pre-recession levels.
Builders started work on 37,080 new properties in the three months to December, the Department for Communities and Local Government said this morning. It marks a six per cent increase on the previous six month period but also a 23 per cent jump on the same three-month period in 2014.
Total housing starts for 2015 hit 143,560, up six per cent on the year before. Completions reached 142,890, up 21 per cent. Starts and completions regularly exceeded 170,000 prior to the 2008-9 recession.
“New homes may be accelerating – but only from a snail’s pace. Any snail-speed improvement won’t be enough to shift along the UK economy, or make a serious difference for young people scouring the market for a home," said Andrew Bridges, managing director of London estate agent Stirling Ackroyd.
“The problem is planning. Promises on the one hand are pushed away by the other – refusing permission to build. It’s far too difficult to get planning approval for new homes in London – the capital’s running at a 22% housing deficit from 2015 even before the difficulties of actually building anything."
One house builder said the figures showed the government's help to buy scheme, which provides support to home buyers, was working.
“Help to Buy is helping to get Britain building; it’s encouraging housebuilders to invest in new sites and bring forward developments. This positive impact has been backed up by independent analysis, with the evidence showing a clear link between the take up of the Help to Buy equity loan and the number of homes being built. We can expect to see Help to Buy London stimulate further investment in the Capital in 2016, particularly in outer London," said Greg Hill, strategy and change management director at Hill, a UK housebuilder.
Housing Minister Brandon Lewis said:
We’ve got the country building again with starts nearly double the low point of 2009 and along with completions hitting a 7-year high.
However we’re not complacent. That’s why we’ve set out the most ambitious housing vision for more than a generation, doubling the housing budget so we can meet our ambition of delivering a million new homes.