Big jump in number of new homes started

Official figures released show a big rise in the number of new homes started last year. The data from the Department for Communities and Local Government shows that 137,010 new homes were started in 2014.

The figures show house building numbers are still recovering strongly, with starts up 10% on 2013; 36% on 2012 and 59% on the trough in 2009. House building starts are the favoured measure of house building because it provides the best indication of current activity.

This increase in house building activity mirrors figures released last month by NHBC showing new home registrations rose to over 145,000 in 2014. For the same period, HBF’s Housing Pipeline reports show a steady rise in the number of planning permissions being granted in recent quarters.

The number of homes started has been gradually increasing since a low point in 2009 following the economic downturn. But, as can be seen from the graph below, this growth in activity accelerated dramatically following the launch of Help to Buy equity loan scheme in April 2013. The more positive market conditions resulted in almost 40,000 more homes being started in 2014 than in the last full year before Help to Buy was introduced (2012).

As well as providing desperately needed new homes, this increase in house building activity has created thousands of new jobs. HBF estimates that Over 100,0002 extra new jobs have been created in the UK by the increase in house building over the past two years.

Despite the increase seen in new build levels, we are still a long way from delivering the volume of homes needed. Completion figures, which always lag behind starts, are still only at 118,760, well below the objectives set by Government or any of the opposition parties – or the official household formation figures that project a need for 230,000 homes a year.

Whilst Help to Buy is now driving demand for new homes, constraints still remain – not least with the planning process. Help to Buy has had a very positive effect on private house building as the increased certainty has encouraged companies to invest in land and skills. Housing starts amongst private sector builders increased by almost 13% in 2014 following an annual rise of 23% in 2013.

Stewart Baseley, executive chairman at the Home Builders Federation said; ‘Today’s figures demonstrate the increase in house building activity over the past 18 months. Improving consumer confidence and the Help to Buy scheme have increased demand for new home and the industry has responded. We estimate that there are now over 100,000 more people employed as a result of the increase in house building, providing the country with an economic boost as well as much needed housing. However, we are still way short of building the number of new homes the country needs. As we approach an election, all parties need to focus on how we can increase housing supply still further.”

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