Stats show fall in new home starts

But government sees an upside.

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New home starts by housing associations are running 14% per cent lower compared to the last quarter, and completions 10% lower.

The overall stats represent the UK’s lowest quarterly housing output for two years, a nose-dive in completed homes at the start of 2018 – down from nearly 46,000 a year ago and 55,000 at the end of 2017  to below 39,000.

Shadow housing secretary, John Healey, has made the overall statistical fall in new home starts personal – to Theresa May.

Healey threw the government’s own newly-released stats back at May today (June 28),  along with her “personal mission” pledge on housebuilding.

“The dreadfully disappointing figures show that the number of new homes being built has fallen on her watch,” Healey said.

To CIH, the stats reinforce an already compelling case for suspending the Right to Buy to stem the loss of social rented homes, removing barriers stopping councils from replacing homes sold under the scheme and looking at more effective ways to help people access homeownership.

Overall, new-build home starts in England were estimated at 39,350 (seasonally adjusted) in the latest quarter –  a 5% decrease compared to the previous three months and an 8% decrease on a year earlier.

Completions were estimated at 38,160 (seasonally adjusted), 9% lower than the previous quarter and 4% lower than a year ago.

Annual new-build home starts totalled 157,480 in the year to March 2018, down by 3% compared with the year to March 2017.

During the same period, completions totalled 160,470, an increase of 8% compared with last year.

That gives government an upside, with housing minister Dominic Raab MP “welcoming” the number of new homes while referencing a “restlessness” to do much more.

Private enterprise new-build home starts (seasonally adjusted) in the March quarter 2018 are down by 3% from the previous quarter, and completions were also down by 9%.

All starts are now 109% above the trough in the March quarter 2009 and 14% below the March quarter 2007 peak.

All completions are 50% above the trough in the March quarter 2013 and 9% below the March quarter 2007 peak.

Councils sold 11,465 homes under the Right to Buy scheme in 2017/18, with only 4,944 started or acquired to replace them using the receipts.

Since Right to Buy discounts were increased in April 2012, 66,647 homes have been sold, while 17,911 have been started or acquired to replace them.

CIH chief executive, Terrie Alafat, said: “It cannot be right that not only are we not building enough homes for social rent, we are losing them at a time when we need them more than ever.”

Alafat cited the CIH’s own analysis as showing more than 150,000 social rented homes lost between 2012 and 2017 due to Right to Buy and other factors – a figure projected to reach 230,000 by 2020.

“We support the principle of helping tenants move into homeownership but it cannot be at the expense of other people in need, we need to look at fairer ways to help tenants into home ownership, because this is clearly not the way to do it,” Alafat said.

“We are calling on the government to suspend the Right to Buy to stem the loss of social rented homes, remove the barriers stopping councils from replacing homes sold under the scheme and look at more effective ways to help people access homeownership,” she said.

Andy Sommerville, director at Search Acumen, said completions have taken a ‘sharp turn’ in the wrong direction after an encouraging period of increased output.

Sommerville sees the private sector as particularly affected. Despite building the majority of new homes, completions are noticeably down year-on-year while housing associations and council increase output.

“Last year we forecasted a housing shortfall of almost a million homes by 2022 if the UK doesn’t act immediately to correct the course of the housing market.

“Despite this urgent need, the void between supply and demand is still widening by the day, continuing to push house prices towards the limit of what first-time-buyers can afford,” Somerville said.

“Underlying appetite for homeownership should help to sustain housing transaction levels as, with limited movement in the market, available stock is likely to remain in demand – but a sustainable, long-term solution to the housing crisis is clearly still a pressing concern,” he said.


From 1946 to the 1980s, a large number of completions were delivered by councils.

This reduced as the 1980s saw councils becoming housing ‘enablers’ working with housing associations rather than direct ‘providers’.

Completions delivered by the private sector picked up in the 1950s and soon started dominating the market through to the current day.

Housing associations have delivered a steady number of completions over the years.

The tenure captured in the MHCLG stats reflects the tenure of the developer building the home rather than the intended final tenure, which can be different.

In particular, there is a substantial quantity of affordable housing which is not captured because it is built in the private sector and then bought by councils and housing associations.

MHCLG produces affordable housing supply statistics which give a more detailed breakdown of the provision of affordable housing.

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