Rate of new home building not sufficient to meet Government target

The number of new homes being started in England have fallen and while completions have increased commentators believe construction is still some bay behind where it needs to be to meet Government targets.

On a quarterly basis, new build dwelling starts in England were estimated at 36,630 in the second quarter of 2019, down 9% compared to the previous quarter and a 9% decrease on a year earlier, according to data published by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG).

The data also shows that completions were estimated at 42,870, a 1% decrease from the previous quarter but they are 14% higher than a year ago.

Annual new build dwelling starts totalled 162,270 in the year to March 2019, a 1% increase compared with the year to March 2018. During the same period, completions totalled 169,770 an increase of 6% compared with last year.

Clive Docwra, managing director of construction consulting and design agency McBains, believes that the target of 300,000 new homes in England by the mid 2020s will not be reached unless urgent measures are taken to help boost the number of new build starts and completions.

‘These figures bear out that construction firms are suffering from uncertainties over Brexit. Investors are wary of committing to new projects while the outcome remains unclear, while skills shortages, which are already acute, will bite further unless the industry is able to recruit skilled workers from overseas,’ he said.

‘The high cost of materials is also impacting on the amount companies can build, and access to finance is often difficult to come by. Even though the annual figures show an increase in starts and completions of new homes, these are nowhere near enough to meet the demand for housing. Independent estimates suggest that more than 300,000 new homes need to be build each year until 2031, so today’s figures prove that the housing crisis is still miles away from being solved,’ he added.

Currently the industry is not consistent enough in its delivery of new homes, according to Joseph Daniels, founder of modular developer Project Etopia and he pointed out that a slump in the pipeline of new homes is now programmed in for later this year.

‘With new build starts also 25% down on the pre-crisis peak, the structural problems of the UK’s housing market and the industry’s timid reply are still painfully obvious, even after £10 billion of public money has been thrown at it in the form of the Help To Buy scheme. The UK needs a revolution in house building,’ he said.

‘For all the talk about the Government setting ambitious housing targets, there is still a lack of urgency when it comes to walking the walk, and this has meant starts on new homes are down 9% on both the previous quarter and the same time last year,’ he explained.

‘The rate of progress means Government targets remain only a pipedream, and the people it hurts are the ones desperate to get onto the housing ladder, who are locked out by high prices because the supply is simply not there,’ he pointed out.

‘Housing is in a state of crisis, yet the response has not reflected how high a priority house building needs to be in the UK. Only by turning to modern methods of construction which are much faster than traditional building can we hope to deliver the housing the country desperately needs,’ he added.