An increase in housebuilding levels helped to ensure that overall construction output remained flat in July following a 1% drop in June, the latest figures from the Office of National Statistics (ONS) reveal.
Total new housing output in July reported an increase in growth of 5.6% compared with the same month a year earlier, defying all post-Brexit predictions of a drop in activity levels.
The jump in the construction of new homes year-on-year has been warmly welcomed by many property professionals, including Richard Connolly, CEO of Rentplus.
He commented: “The increase of 28.2% in the number new housing starts seen in quarter two of this year versus quarter one is the highest level seen since 2007, and it supports recent reports across the sector which show that the gloomy Brexit predictions are yet to be realised.”
But the figures do reveal the startling disparity between the private and public sector housing markets. The 8.3% increase in new private housing between July 2015 and 2016 is strikingly offset by an 8.6% decrease in the number of public homes being built.
“This trend is reflected in the new start figures, with public housing accounting for just 11% of all new housing orders – well below government targets,” Connolly added. “More urgently needs to be done to increase the number of affordable homes available and the delivery of these must become a priority – innovative solutions must be embraced to support a mix of housing options to best suit the range of needs of local communities.”
Connolly hopes that November’s Autumn Statement will prove to a pivotal turning point in addressing the housing shortage, and he is not the only one.
“We must not allow Brexit to distract from the urgent need to build more homes, especially in London and the South East, which are both facing an intense housing shortage,” said Andrew Bridges, managing director of Stirling Ackroyd. “The chancellor’s Autumn Statement must give housebuilders the confidence to get on with tackling this fundamental issue in our society and extend opportunities for first time buyers, such as Help to Buy.”
“As a former property developer, the industry will be expecting Phillip Hammond to step up to the plate and back housebuilders,” he added.