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Housebuilding in England at highest level since 2008

The number of new build homes being started across England is at its highest level since 2008, the government claims.

Fresh figures from the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) show that 164,960 new homes were started in the year to June 2017, up 13% on the previous year, and the highest rolling annual total since 2008.

Some 153,330 new homes have been completed over the last year, showing an 11% uplift compared with the year before.

Gloucestershire, South Derbyshire and South Norfolk are among the strongest areas in delivering high levels of starts, the Government said.

Meanwhile, Croydon, together with areas in Kent and Gloucestershire, have high levels of completions.

Housing and Planning Minister Alok Sharma said: “It's vital we maintain this momentum to deliver more quality homes in the places that people want to live. Our housing white paper set out an ambitious package of long-term reforms to do just that.”

During the Autumn Statement, an additional £1.4bn investment was announced for the Government's affordable housing programme, increasing the total budget to £7.1bn.

But the latest housebuilding levels should be met with cautious optimism, according to James Allen, head of Walker Crips Alternative Investments.

He commented: “The trends for new house build starts and completions show that the market has recovered to pre-crisis levels. There is also significant convergence between the number of starts and completions which implies that there are few projects not being seen through to completion.

“The data is, however, no cause for real celebration as it belies the deeper issue of housing supply. There is a maximum capacity for new builds from the private sector and at c140,000 [85% of all new build starts] there is little room to increase activity.”

He added: “The Barker Report, which reviewed land use planning in 2006, suggested that we need to create 209,000 new units per annum in order to keep pace with changing demographics and we have been well short of this figure every year since then.

“The most obvious way to address this dearth of supply is to give local authorities a mandate to once again build housing. Local authorities currently account for less than 1% of new housing. While I do not advocate a return to 1960s type building schemes, a short term, five year plan to allow local authorities to borrow at cheap interest rates in order to rapidly address the housing shortage in target areas should not be considered political dogma. It is a sensible solution to a long term crisis.”

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