Financial News

  • 22 August 2014, 13:28

House Building 'Back To Pre-Recession Levels'

House building has returned to pre-crash levels, according to the Government.

But campaigners warn the number of homes being built remains "a drop in the ocean" compared to what is actually needed to meet demand.

The number of new homes being started in England is up by nearly a fifth compared with a year ago, official Whitehall figures show.

Some 36,230 new houses were started between April and June, marking an 18% increase on the same period a year earlier.

However, it was little changed compared to the previous quarter with 36,140 properties started between January and March leading experts to suggest the industry was being held back by material and labour shortages.

The latest quarterly figure brings the total number of starts over the last 12 months to 137,780, which is a 22% increase on the previous year and the highest level of house building since 2007, the Government said.

It pointed to Help to Buy schemes, which allow people to buy both new-build and existing homes with small deposits, as helping boost the house building numbers.

However, critics argue these have contributed to forcing up house prices by fuelling demand, and threaten to create a new housing bubble.

The figures also show an estimated 29,540 new-build homes were completed in England between April and June, marking a 6% increase on the previous quarter and 7% higher than the same quarter a year earlier.

Housing and planning minister Brandon Lewis said: "Wherever you look across the housing market, the signs of progress are clear.

"House building in England is up by over a fifth compared to last year."

But Paul Diggle, a property economist at Capital Economics, said the slight increase in housing starts compared with the previous quarter suggested material and labour shortages are "constraining housebuilders' output".

He said: "Despite the impetus from the Help to Buy equity loan scheme and favourable wider economic conditions, these constraints will keep a lid on house building for a while yet."

And Roger Harding, director of communications, policy and campaigns for the housing charity Shelter, said: "While this small increase may be heralded as a success, the reality is that the number of homes being built is a drop in the ocean compared to what's actually needed.

"The Government has talked about a 'house building revolution' but four years in we've barely seen evolution. Sadly we have the latest in a long line of successive administrations who've failed to deliver the homes that families across the country so desperately need."

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