Housebuilding lags as UK population swells

THE UK’S population is growing at one of the fastest rates in Europe, yet housebuilding remains too slow to keep up with expanding demand.

Estate agents Haart will reveal this morning that first time buyer registrations have surged upward over the past year, rising 74.3 per cent between October 2012 and last month. In the same period London saw an 82.9 per cent upswing.

And the UK’s fast-growing population is also adding to the pressure on a restrained housing supply: according to figures from Brussels, the UK population rose by nearly 392,600 during 2012, to 63.9m.

Nearly two thirds (62 per cent) of the increase was due to so-called natural change, with births outnumbering deaths by 243,900.

Meanwhile, builders began construction on 32,230 homes between July and September, up eight per cent on the second quarter. But this number is still far below the housebuilding activity seen in the pre-crisis period, when over 40,000 projects were commonly started each quarter.

While the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) announced yesterday that the number of housing starts between July and September was the highest for any quarter since 2008, the dramatic figures from Haart and the European Commission show the gap between the number of new buyers and new properties being built.

“Although this is an encouraging development it will, however, still leave the number of starts below the required level and, as such, make little inroad on the overall shortfall in housing,” said Simon Rubinsohn, chief economist at the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors.

Haart’s chief executive Paul Smith added: “Demand for first homes, in particular, is overwhelming and the supply is still extremely limited which is why the average price of such properties is up 6.1 per cent annually. There is no doubt that the catalyst for this was the advanced launch of the government’s Help to Buy scheme’s second phase.”

The first part of the Help to Buy scheme, which applies only to new build homes, has had 18,050 reservations to the end of September, with 5,375 completions, and just over £1bn worth of properties sold. The DCLG said over 2,000 offers have been made during the second half of the scheme – which does not require a newly built house – in the first month of the scheme alone.