Posted by: Jules Birch17/05/2012
Grant Shapps has predictably had a go but it’s hard to see the housebuilding figures out today as anything other than awful.
The housing minister tweeted that housing starts in 2011 were up 29 per cent on 2009. Curiously, though, he did not mention the figures that had just been published for the first quarter of 2012.
These showed that total starts were down 11 per cent on the previous three months and 15 per cent on a year ago. Starts by private housebuilders were down 8 per cent and 7 per cent on the same basis.
And starts by housing associations collapsed by 21 per cent compared with October to December 2011 and 40 per cent compared with January to March 2011.
To be charitable, these are only the figures for one quarter and the previous one did show an improvement.
However, they also make it possible for the first time to compare what’s happened in the second year of the coalition compared to the first. By now, surely, all those policies like the new homes bonus and the scrapping of regional strategies ought to be working.
In fact, starts totalled 104,970, a fall of 6 per cent on 2010/11. Again the picture was much worse for housing associations (down 24 per cent) than for private enterprise (down 1 per cent).
It’s true that the starts total is well up on both 2008/09 and 2009/10 and that completions are up this year as a consequence but things do not look good for Shapps or his ‘gold standard’ of building more homes than Labour. He now needs almost 500,000 starts over the next three years to achieve that.
And the figures only reinforce the message in the Housing Report from the Chartered Institute of Housing, National Housing Federation and Shelter this morning that the government is failing on the housing crisis in general and supply in particular.
At best, housebuilding is flat-lining as the effects of Labour’s stimulus run out. Total starts are stuck at around 65 per cent of the level seen before the credit crunch and less than half the level needed to meet demand. Shapps writes on ConservativeHome this morning that ‘the vital phase III of this government is now underway – turning legislation into action’.
If so, the pressure is really on now for the new homes bonus, the NPPF, the right to buy, the public land initiative and all his other initiatives to deliver. And initial reports on the flagship NewBuy programme do not exactly look promising.
From Inside edge
Housing commentator Jules Birch puts the latest news in context