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Drop in housing starts - but completions edge up

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Housing starts fell 14 per cent between April and June, plunging by more than 5,000 compared to the first three months of 2015

The drop was felt across all housing tenures with starts in the private sector dropping by 12 per cent compared to the first quarter of 2015 (from 28,110 to 31,930), while housing association starts declined by 23 per cent over the same period.

According to the latest government statistics, local authority starts almost halved compared to the previous quarter, falling from 650 in January to March to 360. Overall, there were 33,280 housing starts between April and June, compared to 38,860 recorded in the first quarter 2015.

However housing completions saw an upturn, rising by 4 per cent to 35,640 compared to the 34,160 built in the first quarter of 2015.

The number of completed homes has now reached the highest level since early 2009 and figures for the 12 months to June are 15 per cent higher than the same period a year earlier.

Graph - housing completions April to June 2015 [CLG figures]

The figures emerge as chancellor George Osborne announced he wanted to shake-up the planning system to make it easier to build new homes and business premises in rural villages.

Osborne, who was writing in the Daily Telegraph, said the lack of rural homes was a ‘scandal’ and that the current ‘planning and regulatory constraints’ were the main barrier to business growth in the countryside.

Unveiling a new Rural Productivity Plan earlier today (20 August), Osborne said the Conservative government would ‘make it easier for people to stay in their rural communities and for newcomers to settle there too’.

RIBA president Stephen Hodder welcomed the new countryside proposals. He added: ‘Local Authorities must be empowered to be able to deliver well planned and well connected communities on brownfield land that is fit-for-purpose for those who need them.

‘However it is vital that, in the drive to counter the housing crisis that has gripped Britain, that local expertise, high quality design and sustainable planning are at the heart of every conversation.’

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Henry Gregg, assistant director of Campaigns at the National Housing Federation:
‘Britain is in the grips of a housing crisis, and at the centre of this huge national issue is the fact that we’ve failed to build enough homes for a generation or more.

‘Today’s figures are encouraging [however], we need to continue to increase our efforts as a nation to build the homes that are desperately needed. Last year alone we built less than half of the homes needed, pushing house prices and home ownership further out of reach for millions of families and young people.

‘Housing associations are building across the country and are valuable potential partners for government to get even more homes built. We want to work together to end the housing crisis and provide quality affordable homes to everyone who needs them.’

Jan Crosby, KPMG’s head of housing:
‘While the £10million set aside in the recent government Starter Homes announcement to prepare brownfield sites for build can only be welcomed, had that money been instead put towards funding additional planning officers it would have a much bigger impact. And that’s the key – in a climate where funding continues to be tight, every penny must be spent in the most effective way, which is why the housing sector and public must continue to call for a long-term strategy.’

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