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Brandon Lewis says housebuilding figures are 'testament' to government policies - but councils should look away now

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Brandon Lewis says housebuilding figures are 'testament' to government policies - but councils should look away now

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Published by Jon Land for 24dash.com in Housing and also in Central Government, Local Government

Brandon Lewis says housebuilding figures are 'testament' to government policies - but councils should look away now Brandon Lewis says housebuilding figures are 'testament' to government policies - but councils should look away now

Housing and Planning Minister Brandon Lewis said the increase in the number of new homes being built was "testament" to the government's efforts to "fixing the broken housing market".

Today's figures from the ONS showed there were 26,230 new housing starts in England between April and June, an 18% increase 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.

Mr Lewis said today’s figures are further evidence that the government’s long-term economic plan to improve the housing market is working.

But scratch the surface and the figures tell a different story. Although up significantly year-on-year, housebuilding starts are 26% below their March 2007 peak and completions remain 39% down.

In the public sector, housing association starts (6,090) increased 12% from the previous quarter. But starts by local authorities dropped by a whopping 80% from 1,310 in the last quarter to just 260. And to add to their misery a further 2,845 council-owned properties were sold off under the right to buy between April and June, a 31% increase on the same quarter last year.

More than 480,000 new homes have now been delivered since July 2010 (an average of 120,000 a year). Of these, almost 200,000 are classified as 'affordable' homes, although the vast majority of them for are 'affordable rent'.

Brandon Lewis said: "Wherever you look across the housing market, the signs of progress are clear. Housebuilding in England is up by over a fifth compared to last year, orders for building materials are rising at the quickest pace for 11 years, and companies are hiring new staff at the fastest rate since 1997.

"This progress did not happen by accident. It bears testament to our efforts to reform the planning system and help homebuyers while paving the way for housebuilders to boost their output. But there’s still more to do, and improving the housing market will remain a vital part of our long-term economic plan.

Grainia Long, chief executive of the Chartered Institute of Housing (CIH), was more cautious in her reaction to today's figures.

She 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.”

Rachel Fisher, head of policy at the National Housing Federation, said: “The increase in house building shows housing associations are successfully getting on site and delivering the affordable homes we desperately need.

“However, it is clear that the total number of homes being built across all sectors remains woefully short of what’s needed. Not even half of the 245,000 new homes required every year just to keep up with need were delivered in the last 12 months.

“To solve this crisis we need the government to replace the disparate, short-term building programmes we currently have, with bold, long-term intervention that will see the right homes built in the right places at the right price. Politicians from all parties must look beyond the life-time of the next parliament and commit to end the housing crisis in a generation.”

Shelter tweeted: "Latest govt figures show we're still building less than half of the 250,000 homes needed to address England’s housing shortage." 

Key points from today's ONS figures:

  • Seasonally adjusted house building starts in England are estimated at 36,230 in the June quarter 2014, remaining stable compared to the previous quarter (0% change). The seasonally adjusted level of starts in the June quarter 2014 increased by 18% on the same quarter a year earlier.
  • Seasonally adjusted completions are estimated at 29,540 in the June quarter 2014, 6% higher than the previous quarter. The seasonally adjusted level of completions in the June quarter 2014 increased by 7% on the same quarter a year earlier.
  • Private enterprise housing starts (seasonally adjusted) were 2% higher in the June quarter 2014 than the previous quarter, whilst starts by housing associations were 12% higher.
  • Seasonally adjusted private enterprise completions increased by 4% and housing association completions rose by 15% from the previous quarter.
  • Seasonally adjusted starts are now 112% above the trough in the March quarter 2009 but 26% below the March quarter 2007 peak. Completions are 39% below their March quarter 2007 peak.
  • Annual housing starts totalled 137,780 in the 12 months to June 2014, up by 22% compared with the year before. Annual housing completions in England totalled 114,440 in the 12 months to June 2014, an increase of 7% compared with the previous 12 months.

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