English housing starts and completions are still 25 per cent below their pre-recession peak, despite steady improvements, new government figures show.
Starts between October and December 2015 rose 23 per cent on the same period last year to reach 37,080, with completions up 22 per cent to 37,230.
However, the figures are still some way down on levels recorded in January to March 2007, which saw 49,300 starts and 48,500 completions.
Welcoming the annual rises, housing minister Brandon Lewis said: ‘We have got the country building again with starts nearly double the low point of 2009 and along with completions hitting a seven-year high.’
Communities secretary Greg Clark said the improved figures reflected the success of reforms to the planning system and schemes such as Help to Buy.
Private enterprise completions increased by 7 per cent while housing association completions decreased by 3 per cent from the previous quarter.
Separate figures released by construction data firm Glenigan and the Home Builders Federation showed more bumpy progress on reaching pre-recession levels on housing planning approvals.
The number of detailed approvals for new homes in England reached 59,875 during July to September 2015.
While this was 12 per cent up on the same period last year, it has been exceeded in four quarters since the start of 2012.
The pre-recession peak for housing permissions was during the first quarter of 2008, when 77,368 applications for housing were approved by English councils. The latest quarter’s figures stand at just 77 per cent of that.
Another set of figures released by the National House Building Council showed that 10,309 new homes were registered to be built in January 2016, a drop of 9 per cent compared to January last year.
Julia Evans, chief executive, BSRIA, said that closing the gap between the number of permissions granted and completions would be difficult due to the skills shortage in the construction industry.
She said: ‘We acknowledge the investment being carried out by all the major house builders but have acute concerns about who is going to build these houses. Especially who is going to lay the first brick when bricklayers are one of the tradesmen who are in grave demand.’