Latest housing starts fall short of government targets

February 24, 2017 / Isla MacFarlane
Latest housing starts fall short of government targets

Despite the latest DCLG figures showing housing starts at a nine-year high, the latest housebuilding data highlights how the government is failing to build the homes the nation needs.

The figures show that 167,700 new homes were completed between Q3 2015 and Q2 2016, below the government’s self-imposed annual target of the 200,000 necessary to achieve its ambition of building one million homes by 2020.

“The housing start figures have highlighted a broken system that is failing to meet the needs of today’s housebuilding industry, compounding the housing crisis,” said Antony Stark, Director of Linea Homes.

The latest house building data shows that 153,370 new homes were started in the year to December, up 5% on the previous year. More than 140,500 homes were completed in the year to December 2016.

Housing and Planning Minister Gavin Barwell said, “We’ve got the country building again with the highest number of housing starts for nine years. However, we know there’s more to be done to build more homes in the places that people want to live.”

Linea Homes believes that the greatest barrier to achieving this is an underfunded and ineffective planning system that is holding up an increasing number of new homes every year.

“We believe that a cohesive and modern planning framework that is fit for purpose, with greater funds directed to local authorities so they are able to cope with the sheer volume of applications that come their way, will speed up delivery and reinvigorate the industry,” said Stark. “Reform is needed now, otherwise the invaluable contribution of smaller housebuilders in meeting the UK’s housing needs will be crippled, along with the government’s ambition to tackle the housing crisis.”

The National Federation of Builders (NFB) and the House Builders Association (HBA) believe that the government’s housing policies have contributed to inflating demand for housing without boosting supply.

The Housing and Planning Act 2016 focuses excessively on purchasing – rather than encouraging different types of ownership and supply – and has restricted the ability of local authorities to build new homes.

The government does not seem keen to build on the Housing and Planning Act; instead it appears intent on rewriting key areas. The Neighbourhood Planning Bill proposes to amend significant parts of the Housing and Planning Act, while the Housing White Paper looks set on diluting some of its key features.

The NFB said that the government ought to seize this opportunity to work with industry on practical solutions, rather than rolling out initiatives and seeing what sticks.

“Given the disappointing house building figures, we need to ask ourselves if the publication of the Housing White Paper – coming 10 months after the Act – can be seen as an admission that the government has failed to stimulate housebuilding,” it said.

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