New housing starts up, but completions down

Housing charity welcomes 'uptick' but says it's still not fast enough

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The Independent Online

The Government’s latest house building figures reveal that 122,590 homes were started in 2013, up 23 per cent on 2012 and the highest figure for five years.

However, over the same period 109,370 homes were completed, a drop of 5 per cent and the lowest figure since 2010.

Communities Secretary Eric Pickles pointed to rising figures from around the country including Winchester where starts rose from 356 to 894, North West Leicestershire where starts were up 25 per cent and Corby where the increase was over 30 per cent.

Stewart Baseley, Executive Chairman of the Home Builders Federation, said: "These are just the latest stats to show a big increase in house building activity. It is now clear, after a number of difficult years that saw housing supply levels drop to a record low, that house building is now increasing significantly.

"Help to Buy is increasing demand for new homes and the industry is responding. People’s inability to buy in recent years has been the biggest constraint on the industry’s efforts to build more homes. If people can buy, builders will build. Help to Buy is allowing people who can afford to buy a home to do so, meaning builders can get on with building the homes the country needs."

Mark Clare, Chief Executive of Barratt said: "We are materially increasing the number of new homes we are building as a result of the continued recovery in the housing market across all regions and the £3bn investment we have made in new land over the last 4 years.  In the last six months we’ve increased our completions by 19 per cent compared with the same period the year before. We are targeting the construction of 16,000 homes in 2016, another significant step up and are investing in apprentices and graduates to ensure that we achieve that."

But Campbell Robb, Shelter’s chief executive, said: “Any uptick in housebuilding is to be welcomed, but we’re still nowhere near meeting our housing shortage. Building genuinely affordable homes should be the government’s chief focus, not guaranteeing mortgages the banks now consider too risky. There are already too many people chasing too few homes, and schemes like Help to Buy only raise prices further and make things worse.

What these figures really show is that we are building less than half of the 250,000 homes needed each year just to keep up with demand."

Earlier this week PricedOut, the campaign for lower cost housing, argued that nearly a quarter of a million private renters have been priced out of home ownership since the Help to Buy scheme was launched due to the rise in house prices.

Dan Wilson Craw, PricedOut spokesman, said: "The Help to Buy scheme is an utter travesty. The government reckon they have a policy that will help me and other young adults, but it’s managing to achieve the exact opposite, condemning thousands of us every month to a lifetime at the mercy of landlords."

PricedOut is calling for an end to rising house prices with a government target of zero per cent house price inflation, a programme of housebuilding, tax reform to deter property speculation and better rights for tenants.