We’ve started to build more homes – but the peak is already in sight

We’ve been very vocal on the need to build 250,000 homes every year in England, it is vital that we do this if we want to solve the housing crisis. So how are we doing?

The good news is the number of new houses increased by about 10% in 2014. This increase is not unexpected, given the increase in the number of homes that were started over the past two years.

But looking more closely at the data shows that the number of starts has stopped increasing and is in fact now falling – and that’s the bad news. Because looking forward we expect the number of completed homes to follow the same trend. And we can’t afford for the number of homes built to fall at all, not when  we only delivered 118,770 homes 2014 – less than half of what we need –  that’s the really bad news.

The number of starts in the three months to December was 19% lower than in the June quarter – a dramatic decline in activity. Even if the number of starts in 2015 remains at the same level as it was at the end of last year, there will be almost 17,000 fewer homes that start construction this year compared to last.

The outlook for building social rented homes is even graver. As we outlined in our ‘In the mix’ report, we think that around 50%, or 125,000, of new homes should be affordable.  But we only completed 25,000 in 2014.

And this is set to get worse. There was a 32.9% decline in affordable housing starts  in the December quarter compared to the June quarter. If starts remain at this level throughout 2015, there will be over 6,000 fewer affordable homes being built this year than in 2014, meaning less than 20,000 built in total. And this is when there are over 1.4 million households on the social housing waiting list.

On top of all this, the social housing stock is swimming against the tide as Right to Buy sales deplete the total number of social homes. In 2013 there were over 22,000 affordable homes built, but the actual increase in stock was only 12,000, due to more than 10,000 Right to Buy sales.

We need to start somewhere – and the small increase in building in 2014 is a helpful start. But the challenge now is to increase momentum, as there is still a very long way to go before build the number of homes we need to end the housing crisis.