House building 'best since 2007'
House building has got off to its best start to the year since 2007, with most of the UK seeing strong growth, an industry body has reported.
The National House Building Council (NHBC) said that 40,281 new homes were registered between January and March, marking the highest total for the first three months of the year since 53,420 new registrations were recorded in early 2007.
The "encouraging" figures seen so far for 2015 also represent an 18% increase when compared with the first three months of 2014, the NHBC said. But in London, new registrations were down by 29% year-on-year in the first three months of 2015.
In March alone, 17,210 new homes were registered across the country, marking an upswing of nearly one third (32%) compared with March 2014.
The NHBC's registration figures are taken from builders who are responsible for around 80% of homes constructed in the UK. Builders are required to register a house with the NHBC before starting work, which means its figures represent homes that are to be built in the months ahead.
NHBC chief executive Mike Quinton said: "Our figures show an encouraging start to 2015 with new housing registrations up 18% on the first quarter of last year. Housing growth levels remain strong across virtually every part of the UK.
"However, we have made clear that the UK is still building way below the volumes of homes that we need. NHBC looks forward to working with government to ensure that high quality new housing is a top priority."
Northern Ireland, the South East of England and Eastern England saw particularly strong growth in house building in the first three months of 2015 compared with early 2014.
Eastern England saw a 70% upswing in new registrations, while Northern Ireland saw a 42% increase. In the South East, new registrations grew by 47% year-on-year in the first three months of 2015.
In Yorkshire and the Humber, the number of new-builds being registered was up by one third (33%) on a year earlier, while in the South West of England the figure was up by 38%.
David Little, NHBC director, Northern Ireland, said that commuter areas around Belfast are particular hot spots, adding: "It is clear that confidence is back, with many builders in Northern Ireland enjoying a very strong start to the year."
But some regions saw falls compared with a year ago. In London, 5,622 new homes were registered between January and March, marking a 29% fall compared with the same period a year earlier.
The NHBC's previous figures for London have been particularly strong as the economy started to recover. The latest figure could possibly be a sign of house builders taking a pause in early 2015 in order to await the outcome of the General Election.
Meanwhile, the North East of England also saw a 10% fall in new registrations compared with the first three months of 2014.
Steve Catt, NHBC director, England, said the Eastern region has "notably picked up, with new home growth continuing apace in the Midlands, and, as we have regularly seen over recent years, within the South East".
In Wales, new registrations were up by 32% year-on-year in the first three months of 2015 and in Scotland they increased by 15% compared with early 2014.
Peter Watton, NHBC director, Wales, said: "It is clear that (mortgage support scheme) Help to Buy - Wales has made a real impact."
And Malcolm MacLeod, NHBC director, Scotland, said: "After a difficult few years, the sector is beginning to show some considerable improvement."
The figures also show that detached homes are continuing to make a comeback. More than one quarter (26%) of new homes registered in the first three months of 2015 were detached, equalling the percentage seen across 2014. The proportion of homes being built that were detached fell to a recent low of 15% in 2008.
The bulk of new-build homes being registered are flats and maisonettes, accounting for 31% of properties.
Campbell Robb, chief executive of Shelter, said: "While we welcome any sign that house building is on the rise, this is just a drop in the ocean compared to the 250,000 we need each year to fix our housing drought."
He continued: "If the next government doesn't take stock and prioritise building the genuinely affordable homes we desperately need, millions of young people and families will continue to pay the price - both now and for generations to come."
Here are the numbers of new property registrations across the UK by the NHBC between January and March 2014 and the percentage change compared with the first three months of 2014:
:: Scotland, 3,189, 15%
:: North East, 1,180, minus 10%
:: Yorkshire and the Humber, 2,223, 33%
:: East Midlands, 3,573, 30%
:: Eastern England, 4,318, 70%
:: London, 5,622, minus 29%
:: South East, 6,624, 47%
:: South West, 4,486, 38%
:: West Midlands, 3,835, 31%
:: Wales, 1,193, 32%
:: Northern Ireland, 776, 42%
:: North West, 3,262, 5%