House-building surges but is still below 2007 peak

House-building starts in the first quarter of 2015 increased by 31% on the previous quarter in England and by 11% compared to the same period last year, according to government figures. Seasonally adjusted house building starts in England are estimated at 40,300 for the first three months of 2015, the highest quarterly number since 2007.

The 31% increase in starts, up from 30,700 in the previous quarter, is in stark contrast to the 1.1% decline in overall construction output that the Office for National Statistics came out with last week.

Seasonally adjusted completions are estimated at 34,040 in Q1 2015, 10% higher than the previous quarter and 21% higher than Q1 2014.

Seasonally adjusted starts are now 136% above the trough of Q1 2009. However, they are still 18% below the Q1 2007 peak. Completions are 30% below the Q1 2007 peak.

In the 12 months to March 2015 housing starts totalled 140,500, up by 5% compared with the year before. Completions during the year were up 11% to 125,110.

The Home Builders Federation (HBF), the lobby group for housing developers and builders, said that despite the increase, the numbers were still well short of the new houses that many believe are needed. The HBF says that 230,000 new homes a year need to be built in England to meet demand.

HBF director of economic affairs John Stewart said: “These figures are yet another sign that the house-building industry is responding to more positive market conditions, along with the added boost from Help to Buy Equity Loan, to raise housing supply. The last parliament saw the introduction of a range of positive policies that allowed supply to be increased. A combination of improving consumer confidence and the unequivocal success of the Help to Buy scheme has brought about an increase in the realisable demand for new homes, which in turn has allowed the industry to increase output. But despite these increases we are still a long way from delivering the number of homes the country needs.

“Significant constraints remain, and if the government is to deliver on its manifesto commitment to further increase build rates we now need to see more action. Maintaining the Help to Buy scheme to 2020 is absolutely essential, as are policies to increase the speed at which land for housing comes forward through the planning system. Swift action by the new government will allow the industry to maintain momentum and provide decent homes for thousands more people. Increasing housebuilding will also create tens of thousands of jobs and lead to infrastructure and amenity improvements in every part of the country.”