UK housebuilding rates fail to meet government targets, with coronavirus yet to take its toll

Bricks in a wheelbarrow

The number of new build UK homes started and completed in the last quarter of 2019 fell below government targets, according to new figures, and the industry says the coronavirus pandemic is set to have a further impact on the sector.

According to the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government, the new build dwellings figures should be regarded as a leading indicator of overall housing supply.

The figures show that:

• On a quarterly basis, new build dwelling starts in England were estimated at 34,260 (seasonally adjusted) in the latest quarter, an 11 per cent decrease compared to the previous 3 months and a 17 per cent decrease on a year earlier. Completions were estimated at 44,980 (seasonally adjusted), a 1 per cent decrease from the previous quarter and 3 per cent higher than a year ago.

• Annual new build dwelling starts totalled 151,020 in the year to December 2019, a 10 per cent decrease compared with the year to December 2018. During the same period, completions totalled 178,800, an increase of 9 per cent compared with last year

• All starts between October and December 2019 are now 99 per cent above the trough in the March quarter 2009 and 30 per cent below the March quarter 2007 peak. All completions between October and December 2019 are 78 per cent above the trough in the March quarter 2013 and 7 per cent below the March quarter 2007 peak.

Clive Docwra, Managing Director of leading construction consulting and design agency McBains, says: “The government’s ambitious housebuilding target – delivering a million homes in the next five years – was always going to be extremely challenging, and the latest statistics bear this out. However, the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic will mean this is now virtually impossible.

“Many sites are empty, supply chains have been disrupted and multi-million pounds worth of private investment is on hold for the foreseeable future. That will knock back housebuilding rates months, if not years.

“The government has already announced an unprecedented package of measures to help support business, but once we’ve turned the tide on the virus further help, such as tax incentives, will be needed to get the UK building again.”