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Overall housing starts slump, says Homes England

Words: Laura Edgar
Decrease / iStock-109190483

Homes England’s housing programmes saw 11,313 new houses started on site and 11,358 homes between 1 April and 30 September 2020.

This is a decrease compared with the same period a year earlier, according to statistics published by the government’s housing agency Homes England.

Starts on site were down by 38 per cent during the first half of 2020 compared with the first half of 2019 and completions were down 25 per cent.

Homes England has attributed the fall to the national lockdown implemented in March to stem the spread of Covid-19.

This resulted in Homes England’s delivery partners immediately pausing on some sites and implementing social distancing on others. Partners reported that between 60 per cent and 100 per cent of employees and contractors were unable to be on-site, Homes England explained.

The 8,897 affordable housing starts made up 79 per cent of total starts on site, although this is a drop of 32 per cent on last year. The number of affordable starts in 2020/21 is the lowest since 2017/18, Homes England reports. Much of this can be attributed to Covid-19, but the Shared Ownership Affordable Homes Programme (SOAHP) 2016-21 entered its final year and lower levels of affordable starts were expected.

Breaking down the 8,897 affordable homes started, 3,295 were for affordable rent – 38 per cent less than the 5,340 started in the previous year. Another 2,768 were for intermediate affordable housing schemes such as shared ownership and rent to buy), which is a 34 per cent decrease on the same period a year earlier. The number of social rent starts was 541, compared with the 734 started last year.

The tenure for 2,293 affordable homes is yet to be confirmed, a drop of 21 per cent on 2,896 in 2019/20.

Nick Walkley, chief executive at Homes England, said: “As anticipated, Covid-19 had a significant impact on the construction industry in the first half of this year.

“Homes England has been working closely with delivery partners and colleagues in government to support the sector to build back its capacity. Confirmation of £12 billion of funding through the Affordable Homes Programme gives confidence to the sector to support delivery over the next five years.

“By working with our strategic partners and the wider sector, we can ensure that the £7.5 billion allocation Homes England received, along with the additional funding announced in the recent Spending Review, helps to stimulate the sector and ultimately gives our delivery partners the confidence they need to invest in new homes.

“We are encouraged by the latest economic data showing that the construction sector is recovering and growing strongly, with housebuilding performing particularly well, and hope that the positive news on the development of several effective vaccines will aid further recovery.”

Homes England programmes are funded by central government to enable private registered providers, housebuilders, community groups and local authorities to deliver affordable housing.

The housing agency also reported that housing built for sale at market rates were down by 56 per cent in comparison with the previous year, again because of the Covid-19 pandemic. Total starts for the same period in 2019/20 were 18,221 and 15,046 were completed.

Regarding completions, data from late March suggests that nearly 1,900 schemes had been closed or delayed, directly affecting the completion of nearly 240,000 new homes, said Homes England. Some sites were able to reopen relatively quickly after the first lockdown, but backlogs in the supply chain meant that some schemes faced delays. Partners reported shortages of plasterboard, bricks, and mortar, as well as logistical challenges.

In total, 7,612 affordable homes were completed – 26 per cent less than a year earlier.

Housing statistics: 1 April 2020 – 30 September 2020 can be found on the UK Government website.

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