Housing starts in England fell this year

The number of housing starts in England fell in the first quarter of this year though completions were up on a year ago.

The new figures estimate that, in the quarter to March 2019, new-build dwelling starts in England were at a seasonally adjusted figure of 36,630 a 9% decrease compared to the previous three months and a 9% decrease on a year earlier.

The figures come in the newly published report, House building: new build dwellings, England: March Quarter 2019, from the Ministry of Housing Communities & Local Government.

Completions were estimated at 42,870 a 1% decrease from the previous quarter but 14% higher than a year ago.

Private enterprise new-build dwelling starts in March quarter 2019 were down by 7% from the previous quarter, and completions were unchanged. Starts by housing associations were 8% lower compared to the last quarter, and completions were down by 5%.

Annual new build dwellings 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. All starts between January and March 2019 are now 114% above the trough in the March quarter 2009 and 25% below the March quarter 2007 peak. All completions between January and March 2019 are 71% above the trough in the March quarter 2013 and 11% below the March quarter 2007 peak.

Clive Docwra, managing director of consulting and design agency McBains expressed concern about the numbers. “The government has set a target of building 300,000 homes a year by the mid 2020s, but to-day’s figures show that this will remain a pipe dream unless measures are implemented to help boost the number of new build starts and completions”, he said. “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”.

“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 built each year until 2031, so today’s figures prove that the housing crisis is still miles away from being solved”.