Official house building figures for England and Wales are widely inaccurate, it is claimed

The UK Government’s most publicised measure of house building excludes around a fifth of all new build completions every year, according to a new report.

Flawed methodology and poor returns from Local Authorities in England and Wales mean around 30,000 new builds are not counted in the official numbers, the Ghost Towns report from the Home Builders Federation (HBF) reveals.

Analysis shows that the ‘ill-termed’ House Building Statistics released on a quarterly and annual basis by the Department of Communities and Local Government (DCLG) under report new build completions in 75% of Local Authorities with an average of 153 new homes ‘lost’ in each of those areas.

More than half of new build homes in areas such as Birmingham, Liverpool, Leicester, Salford and many London Boroughs are completely unaccounted for in the quarterly series, the report says.

As a result, a town equivalent to the size of Stevenage is being ‘lost’ every year, or, over the course of a Parliament, in which Government is targeting a million homes, a city larger than Nottingham, Coventry or Newcastle simply vanishes.

The confusingly named ‘Net Supply of Housing ‘data series, which is only published once a year and is drawn from more reliable sources more closely linked to the numbers Local Authorities use for determining their Council Tax Base show that more than 181,000 homes were added to the housing stock in 2014/2015, the latest numbers available, of which 155,000 were new build, up 20% year on year.

At a time when the house building industry is rapidly increasing output, largely as a result of some significant Government policy successes the shortfall is presenting industry and Government critics, and those opposed to development generally, with ammunition to criticise, the report suggests.

‘House building has increased significantly in recent years but the continual publication and use of inaccurate statistics is painting a negative picture that is undermining the progress being made in tackling the housing shortage,’ said Stewart Baseley, HBF executive chairman.

‘The Government’s housing policies and the industry are delivering, and it is incredibly frustrating that official statistics are not reflecting what is happening on the ground but instead presenting an open goal for critics,’ he added.

The report shows that the published data excluded at least 75% of new homes in the London Boroughs of Brent, Wandsworth, Hammersmith and Fulham and Kensington and Chelsea as well as 1,280 new homes in Birmingham which was two thirds of all new build completions.

Also excluded was 920 new homes in Liverpool, amounting to 63% of all new build completions, 640 new homes in Salford which were half of all new build completions, 570 new homes in Leicester, some six out of 10 new build completions, 570 new homes in Sheffield or 40% of all new build completions and 400 new homes in Chester West and Chester or 29% of all new build completions.

The report also puts forward additional reliable indicators of housing delivery, including the official Council Tax Base statistics, counting net additional homes at a later point in the year than that covered by the Net Supply statistics, and the issuance of Energy Performance Certificates for new build properties. Both report that construction levels vastly are outstripping the ‘wildly inaccurate’ House Building Statistics.