Housing starts in England recovered strongly in the first three months of 2015, surging ahead 31% to over 40,000 on the previous quarter.
The latest official Government figures were welcomed by housing minister Brandon Lewis as evidence that housing initiatives were getting the country building again.
The 12 months rolling total to March, showed the industry started on 140,500 homes – 5% higher than during the previous year, but still short of the significant growth needed to address the housing shortage.
Lewis said: “We’re turning around an industry that was devastated and getting the country building again.
“Today’s figures show these efforts are reaping results, with housebuilding starts having more than doubled since 2009, and completions at their highest for nearly six years.”
The figures also showed 125,110 homes completed between April 2014 and March this year – 11% higher than the previous year and their highest annual total since 2009.
During the 12-months there were particularly strong areas of new build starts in parts of London. Areas north of the London green belt in Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire, Northamptonshire and Leicestershire also experienced high levels of starts, along with areas in Hampshire and along the south coast.
Some of the greatest increases in starts levels were in districts in Leicestershire, Derbyshire, and parts of Essex. Areas with some of the largest falls in rates of house building included districts in Hertfordshire and Surrey.
The proportions of houses to flats hovered around the two-thirds of total completions mark, just slightly down from around 70% in the previous year.
House builder Crest Nicholson reported a jump in first-half forward orders as stamp duty cuts and increased mortgage market competition drove demand in the housing market to new highs.
In a half-year trading statement today Stephen Stone, chief executive, said purchasers confidence was running high, supported by economic recovery, good mortgage access and a rise in disposable income.
Crest Nicholson, which is focused on upmarket homes in the south of England, said the conditions helped to boost forward sales by 25% to 1,786 units and £336m in the six months to April 30.
But he warned that production capacity in the industry was now acting as the main constraint on the industry.
He said: “Strong rates of sale will support both current year outputs and the forward sales position, but challenges in the supply chain - particularly shortages of skilled labour- will limit the level of volume growth achieved in any one year.
“A level of disruption to the normal process of securing planning is commonly experienced in the run-up to a general election and this year has been no different; now that the election is decided, it is expected that we will see a return to a more consistent level of engagement and also reap the benefits of policy continuity.
He added: “Sales price inflation continues to offset pressures from cost increases in the supply chain, albeit that build costs are showing some signs of acceleration as the market picks up pace.”
Average open-market selling prices of £322,000 were 20% higher than the £269,000 achieved in the first half of 2014, reflecting an element of price inflation but also product and location mix.
Stone said completions at 1,124 were running 3% ahead of prior year, with open market completions up 8%.
With the benefit of already strong land holdings, the business continues to apply a disciplined approach to land buying.
Acquisitions in the first half have focused on the strategic land pipeline, where six sites and a net 2,575 plots were added in the first six months of the year.
More than 40,000 new homes were registered in the UK during the first three months of the year, an increase of 18% on the same period last year.
New house building figures released today by NHBC for the first quarter show that in total, 40,281 new homes (30,691 private sector; 9,590 public sector) were registered.
This represents a year-on-year 26% increase for the private sector, with the public sector marginally down by 1%.
Figures for March show that 17,210 new houses were registered, up a third on the same month last year (13,068; 9,051 private sector; 4,017 public sector).
NHBC Chief Executive Mike Quinton said: ”Our figures show an encouraging start to 2015 with new housing registrations up 18% on the first quarter of last year. Housing growth levels remain strong across virtually every part of the UK.
“However, we have made clear that the UK is still building way below the volumes of homes that we need. NHBC looks forward to working with government to ensure that high quality new housing is a top priority.”
Brandon Lewis is to remain housing and planning minister, despite early reports that fellow Con-servative MP Mark Francois would take the role.
The mix-up over ministerial roles at the department resulted in reports that the housing brief had moved on for the fifth time since 2010.
This morning a spokesperson for the communities department confirmed Lewis will stay on as hous-ing and planning minister in David Cameron’s new cabinet.
Francois’ responsibilities as a junior minister at the department have still to be confirmed. It was also confirmed that James Wharton becomes a junior minister for the ‘Northern Powerhouse’ within the communities department.
In one of the few major Cabinet changes, Eric Pickles lost his job yesterday as communities and local government secretary to former universities minister Greg Clark.
Clark’s appointment will be seen as a shift towards greater focus on regenerating the UK’s cities.
Pickles is understood to be being lined up to take on a role as the Government’s anti-corruption tsar.
Clark held the brief as minister for cities early on in the Coalition Government before in September 2012, becoming financial secretary to the Treasury and then cabinet office minister in October 2013 and, latterly, minister for universities, science & cities last year.
He is widely held to have been the main driver behind the Localism Act, passed in 2011, designed to devolve decision making powers from central government to communities and individuals.
Mike Leonard said: “We are delighted that Brandon remains as Housing and Planning Minister and look forward to continuing to work with him to deliver more masonry homes built to last 150 years.
"We have a fantastic opportunity to “join up the dots” growing the local economy using local builders and UK produced materials to build the homes we need. This will create skilled jobs for the unemployed and for the many thousands of young people who will follow vocational career opportunities in the future.
"We are also delighted to welcome Greg Clark who shares our vision to re-balance the economy creating jobs, growth and better housing throughout the UK."
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