NHBC figures show private home starts have plummeted to about half the level of the last recession

Housing starts in the UK are at a record low, according to the latest figures from the NHBC.

The council’s figures for November show the lowest level of private housing starts since records began in 1986. The number of private homes being built dropped by more than 75% compared with the same month in 2007, from 12,563 to 2,931.

In December 1990, the nadir of the last housing slump, 5,356 private homes were begun.

The NHBC is predicting that combined public and private housing starts for the year will be about 100,000, compared with 200,697 in 2008.

Farookhi: critical years ahead
Farookhi: critical years ahead

In addition, the number of homes completed has fallen: 137,530 were finished in the first 11 months of 2008, compared with 168,556 in the same period in 2007.

The government wants 240,000 new homes to be built every year until 2016 as part of its long-term target of building 3 million homes by 2020. The NHBC is predicting that 85,000 homes will be started in the financial year 2008/09.

Production is expected to begin to recover in 2010/11.

Richard Donnell, director of research at housing information firm Hometrack, said: “The demand for housing has undergone an unprecedented decline in the past 12 months. Developers are not getting the sales volumes they need to complete schemes. The weak outlook for demand and mortgage availability together with the onset of a recession means developers are starting few schemes.”

Imtiaz Farookhi, the NHBC’s chief executive, said: “The next few years will be critical in meeting targets for new homes.

It is vital we prepare so that when a new market emerges it will be equipped to respond to demand.”

The figures published are taken from 20,000 NHBC-registered builders and account for more than 80% of all new homes being built in the UK.