'Disastrous' new figures show housing starts down 26% over past year

The RICS has warned that the government's housebuilding targets are looking “even more unrealistic” following the publication of figures suggesting that new starts would only just beat 100,000 over the whole year.

The latest figures from the Department for Communities and Local Government show there were 126,700 housing starts in the 12 months to September 2008, down 26% on the previous 12 months.

Housing completions in England in the quarter to September 2008 fell 10% from the previous quarter, to an estimated 33,300 (seasonally adjusted). Compared with the same quarter in 2007, completions were down by 18%. Quarterly completions exceeded starts for the fourth quarter in a row.

James Rowlands, policy officer at the RICS, said: “These disastrous figures show the serious impact the economic downturn is having on the housebuilding industry. New starts are likely to amount to little more than 100,000 homes over the whole of this year, with the prospect for 2009 looking even bleaker.

“This decline in housebuilding levels makes the government's target of building 240,000 homes per year by 2016 look even more unrealistic. Unless more homes are built there is a real danger of a serious mismatch between demand and supply which could lead to renewed problems of affordability when the market recovers.”