Housebuilding rates in England have fallen further below government targets, new figures show, even before the impact of coronavirus has taken its toll.

The government has set a target of delivering a million homes in the next five years, striving to build 200,000 homes each year. 

According to the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government’s new build data, annual new build dwelling starts totalled 151,020 in the year to December 2019, a 10% decrease compared with the year to December 2018. 

Meanwhile, annual new build completions totalled 178,000, a worrying indicator for housing supply in the UK. This is, however, a 9% increase on the previous year. 

While the 44,980 new build completions during the final three months of 2019 marked a 3% increase than a year prior, and only a 1% decrease from the previous quarter, the government remains behind on its homebuilding targets.

The Impact of Coronavirus

It will likely be some time before we see the full impact of the coronavirus pandemic’s impact on the economy, but the housing sector has already experienced turmoil.

Experts have warned that house prices could be affected, and the impact of the pandemic could even grind the housing market to a halt. Moreover, construction workers’ health and safety has been called into question after the government revealed construction work would continue despite the UK entering lockdown.

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Clive Docwra, managing director of construction consulting and design agency McBains, believes coronavirus could impact housebuilding for months, if not years. 

“The government’s ambitious housebuilding target – delivering a million homes in the next five years – was always going to be extremely challenging, and the latest statistics bear this out. However, the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic will mean this is now virtually impossible.

“Many sites are empty, supply chains have been disrupted and multi-million pounds worth of private investment is on hold for the foreseeable future. That will knock back homebuilding rates months, if not years.

“The government has already announced an unprecedented package of measures to help support business, but once we’ve turned the tide on the virus, further help, such as tax incentives, will be needed to get the UK building again.”

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