Government statistics show that the number of newly built homes fell last year to just under
120,000 – half the level needed to keep up with growing national demand. London saw the largest decrease (27
per cent) in new home building with just 18,000 new properties coming on to the market. Overall the UK now has
a shortage of around a million homes, with the deficit rising by 100,000 homes a year as people live longer and
increasingly live alone.
Experts blamed confusion over the Government's new planning laws, the difficult mortgage
market and the overall state of the economy for the lack of building. The figures, which were released on the
Department of Communities and Local Government website, show that new available housing in Britain fell by 6
per cent in the year to April to 117,700. This is on top of a 23 per cent fall in new housing stock between
2009 and 2010. This year is on course to see the fewest homes built since 1923, when records began. Clive
Betts, chairman of the Department for Communities Select Committee, described the new figures as
"We were not building enough homes even in the good times and the recession has exacerbated
the problem. Young people are finding it next to impossible to get on to the housing ladder and there is a very
real risk that even when the economy recovers under-supply will push property prices further out of the reach
of many people."
New house building had been a priority under the previous Labour Government. But ambitious
targets were dropped in the aftermath of the financial crisis when funding dried up. In 2007, 207,000 new
houses were built but this dropped to 157,000 the following year, 124,000 last year.
Steve Turner, of the Home Builders Federation, said the economic problems had been exacerbated
by uncertainty over the Government's new planning laws. "We've had a year and half of paralysis where local
authorities have been sitting on housing development applications until they see how they will be affected by
the new planning laws," he said. "That factor is combined with the high deposits now required for first-time
mortgage applicants that have put off house builders from completing those kind of developments.
The Housing minister Grant Shapps insisted the Government has a strategy that will reverse the
"We will shortly publish a housing strategy outlining both the measures we're already taking
and some new moves we'll make to get Britain building again," he said. "These include ensuring that for the
first time people see the benefits of growth in their area through the New Homes Bonus, which matches the
council tax raised on new properties for six years."