Lunchtime news Friday 15 February 2024

The government’s housebuilding targets are under threat after a shock fall in the number of homes built last year. The official target is to build 240,000 homes a year by 2016, and three million more homes in England by 2020, but the department for Communities and Local Government’s (CLG) own figures show that during the final quarter of 2014, construction work started on around 40,700 new homes, down 11 per cent from the same period in 2013. The 12-month rate of new home starts totalled 166,800 at the end of December 2014, a decline of 6 per cent from December 2013. Housebuilding peaked in 1968 when more than 350,000 homes were built, of which around 200,000 were for private sale and the rest for social housing.

Those complaining about the Tesco-ification of the country may be pleased to know the Competition Commission is set to force supermarkets to sell land to allow rivals to open in areas where there is not enough competition. The commission has found that certain retailers hold on to land, just to prevent others from setting up near by, and are expected to release a report today limiting the length of time supermarkets can keep undeveloped land, and even force those companies to sell stores or land in areas where they are already too powerful.

Estate agents are expecting a steady stream of City professionals with bonus cash to spend to help reignite the housing market, despite rising inflation and warnings from the governor of the Bank of England that interest rates are unlikely to be cut dramatically in the near future. Recent figures indicate that 71 per cent of those employed in financial services expect a bonus as high or higher than last year, totalling around £7 billion. Unsurprisingly, notable absences from the viewings have been employees from Citibank, UBS and Credit Suisse, which have all suffered seriously with losses in the sub-prime housing market.

Almost one in ten of England’s most ‘marginal homeowners’ are spending more than three-quarters of their income on mortgage repayments according the CLG figures. More than 19,000 households with a disposable income of less than £1,000 a month are using all their income or more in paying off their mortgage; nearly 40,000 are spending 75 per cent on payments; and a further 146,500 households are paying more than 50 per cent to mortgage companies. New housing spokesperson for the Liberal Democrats, Lembit Opik, said that low-income families are being ‘enslaved’ by their repayments.

And finally, for the price $22 million, you could buy one of the most famous landmarks in the US – the Hollywood sign in Los Angeles. A Chicago investment group owns the 56-hectare plot the sign sits on, much to the surprise of many in LA who thought it was owned by the city, but they have failed to agree a sale price with the City of Los Angeles authorities to purchase it. The City of Los Angeles has been trying to buy the land for years, but has so far been only able to raise around $5 million.