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British government congratulates itself for presiding over a growing housing crisis

Housing minister Brandon Lewis today welcomed figures that showed that England was building very slightly more than half the new homes it actually needs if we’re not all going to end up living in tents.

The latest government figures show that housebuilding starts in 2014 numbered 137,010.

This was 10 per cent higher than the previous year, the highest annual total since 2007, and still only about 54 per cent of the 250,000 homes that housing charity Shelter thinks we actually need to be building every year to get out of this mess. This graph shows the rolling 12-month totals for starts and completions since 2001:

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Taking credit for this obvious example of the statistical phenomenon known as “reversion to the mean”, Lewis said: “We inherited a broken housing market in which builders couldn’t build, lenders wouldn’t lend and buyers couldn’t buy…. Today’s figures show we’re on track and turning this around.” 

With mind-numbing inevitability, Lewis went on to include the phrase “long-term economic plan”.

The government also patted itself on the back for the success of the Help-to-Buy programme of subsidised debt for first time buyers, which has helped 77,000 households to become homeowners, “with developers building more as a direct result”.

The section of the government statement which provides any actual evidence for this claim unfortunately seems to have gone missing from the document.

In all, 700,000 new homes have been completed since the end of 2009, averaging out at approximately 140,000 a year. This means that, since six months before the coalition took office, England has built roughly 550,000 fewer homes than it actually needs to keep pace with demand.

At time of going to press, Britain’s 9m private renters were said to be feeling very depressed.
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