English Partnerships admits it may miss housing targets next year as grim statistics pile up

Housing starts were 39% lower at the start of 2008 than the previous year, figures obtained exclusively by Building have revealed.

Research by the NHBC showed that there were 9,135 construction starts in January 2008, compared with 14,998 in the first month of 2007. The average number of new homes sold a day dropped to 550, 36% lower than the year before.

Housebuilders warn against using just one month’s figures to predict the direction of the market, but the news follows a 10% fall in housing starts in the last quarter of 2007, revealed last week by the government.

Roger Humber, strategic policy adviser to the House Builders Association said: “Housebuilders must be very deeply concerned at such a poor start. They look to get more than half of their annual sales in the first three months of the year.”

The news comes as the new chair of the government’s regeneration agency admitted it may miss next year’s housing targets because of the downturn in the market.

Robert Napier, who took over at English Partnerships (EP) at the end of last year, said: “Can we deliver the required outputs? Definitely for 2007/08, but the issue is for next year.

Developers are waiting to see what happens. You hear grim stories of how it is right now.”

Napier said the agency was considering selling land owned by EP in smaller parcels to make it less risky and more attractive to developers.

Napier said the exact housing target for 2008/09 was still being negotiated with ministers but that they would expect the agency to exceed the 10,000 homes predicted for 2007/08.

Investment bank Dresdner Kleinwort this week downgraded ratings for Bovis Homes, Persimmon and Taylor Wimpey, saying it expected a “dreadful” results season.