Good news on housing: this government is building more homes. New figures from the Communities and Local Government department show housing starts in the second quarter of 2014 increased by 18 per cent on the same quarter a year earlier and now stand at 36,230. Housing starts are the best picture we can get of how healthy housebuilding is right now. Completions, which naturally reflect an earlier situation but can also be affected by sudden changes in the economy that leave homes half-built (as in Ireland’s ghost estates) are also up by 7 per cent on the same quarter last year and up by 6 per cent from the previous quarter. Annual housing starts in the year to June 2014 were 137,780, which is a 22 per cent rise on the previous year. Completions for the year were 114,440, up 7 per cent.
This is the highest level of housebuilding since the pre-recession peak in 2007. Jolly good. Housing and planning minister Brandon Lewis is happy, saying: ‘Wherever you look across the housing market, the signs of progress are clear.’
Now, far be it from me to sound a note of gloom on the government’s progress on housing (oh, except for here, here, here and, er, here). But while this is all very well and good, it’s not exactly time to sit back and say ‘job done’ on planning reform. There are two reasons for this.