Housing completions up but starts fall, latest MHCLG quarterly figures show

Housing starts dropped by eight per cent in the second quarter of this year compared to the same period a year ago, while completions rose by 11 per cent, according to new government figures.

Housebuilding: completions up but starts down, latest figures show
Housebuilding: completions up but starts down, latest figures show

New statistics from the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government covering the April to June 2019 quarter showed that 37,220 homes were started in the period.

This represents an eight per cent decrease compared to the 40,330 homes started in the same period last year and a three per cent drop compared to the previous January to March 2019 quarter.

However, the number of completions in the latest quarter at 45,190 homes marks a rise of 11 per cent compared to the 40,650 homes finished between April and June 2018, and a four per cent rise on completions in January to March 2019. 

Looking at the figures for the whole year up to June 2019, a total of 173,660 new homes were built, marking an increase of eight per cent compared to the year to June 2018.

Focusing on the annual completion figures, housing secretary Robert Jenrick said: "The data released today is hugely welcome, with the number of new homes built reaching an 11-year high.

"We are moving in the right direction, but there is still much more to do if we are going to deliver the numbers needed by communities up and down the country."

However, the annual starts figures show 160,640 homes built in the year up to June 2019, a drop of one per cent compared to the previous year, and marking the first fall in five years.

Some private sector voices expressed concerns about the drop in the number of starts.

Clive Docwra, managing director of construction consulting and design agency McBains, said: "Today’s figures show the amount of new homes being started or completed are still nowhere near the number required to meet the government’s target of building 300,000 homes a year by the mid 2020s."

He said that Brexit uncertainty meant many housing projects are on hold until the shape of the UK’s exit from the European Union becomes clearer.

The Local Government Association called on the government to give more powers to councils to help them boost the number of homes being started.

LGA housing spokesman David Renard said: "The last time the country built more than 300,000 homes a year was 1977/78, when councils built 44 per cent of them.

"Latest figures show councils built just over 2,300 homes last year – the highest level since 1992 – but need the upcoming Queen’s Speech to hand them powers and funding if they are to play a leading role in solving our housing shortage."

This week’s data also shows private housebuilders started 131,200 homes in the 12 months to the end of June, a year-on-year drop of 2.3 per cent.

Housing association starts were up 3.1 per cent to 27,200 and local authority starts rose 3.7 per cent to 2,230.

Separate figures released earlier this week showed that construction activity in Britain fell last month at the second fastest rate since April 2009.

Also earlier this week, the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government announced that the Accelerated Planning Green Paper is to be published next month.

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