Flawed housing figures see fifth of all completions excluded

Robyn Ashman

September 20, 2016

The government’s most publicised measure of house building excludes around a fifth of all new build completions every year, a new report has revealed.

The House Building Federation’s Ghost towns report found that flawed methodology and poor returns from Local Authorities mean around 30,000 new builds are not counted in the official numbers.

Analysis shows that the “ill-termed” ‘House Building Statistics’, released on a quarterly and annual basis by the Department of Communities and Local Government underreport new build completions in 75% of Local Authorities with an average of 153 new homes ‘lost’ in each of those areas.

More than half of new build homes in areas such as Birmingham, Liverpool, Leicester, Salford and many London Boroughs are completely unaccounted for in the quarterly series.

As a result, a town equivalent to the size of Stevenage is being ‘lost’ every year, or, over the course of a Parliament, in which the government is targeting a million homes, a city larger than Nottingham, Coventry or Newcastle simply vanishes.

The ‘Net Supply of Housing’ data series, which is only published once a year and is drawn from more reliable sources more closely linked to the numbers Local Authorities use for determining their Council Tax Base show that more than 181,000 homes were added to the housing stock in 2014/15 – the last numbers available – of which 155,000 were new build, up 20% year on year.

At a time when the house building industry is rapidly increasing output, largely as a result of some significant government policy successes the shortfall is presenting industry and government critics, and those opposed to development generally, with ammunition to criticise.

Stewart Baseley, executive chairman of the Home Builders Federation, said: “Housebuilding has increased significantly in recent years but the continual publication and use of inaccurate statistics is painting a negative picture that is undermining the progress being made in tackling the housing shortage.

“The government’s housing policies and the industry are delivering, and it is incredibly frustrating that official statistics are not reflecting what is happening on the ground but instead presenting an open goal for critics.”

The published data excluded:

  • At least 75% the London Boroughs of Brent, Wandsworth, Hammersmith and Fulham and Kensington & Chelsea,
  • 1,280 new homes in Birmingham (two-thirds of all new build completions)
  • 920 new homes in Liverpool (63% of all new build completions)
  • 640 new homes in Salford (half of all new build completions)
  • 570 new homes in Leicester (6 out of 10 new build completions)
  • 570 new homes in Sheffield (40% of all new build completions)
  • 400 new homes in Chester West & Chester (29% of all new build completions)

The report also puts forward additional reliable indicators of housing delivery, including the official Council Tax Base statistics, counting net additional homes at a later point in the year than that covered by the Net Supply statistics, and the issuance of Energy Performance Certificates for new build properties. Both report that construction levels vastly outstripping the wildly inaccurate ‘House Building Statistics’.

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