New private house starts are at a 50-year low after orders in the three months to August 2015 fell 33 per cent compared with the previous three months, and 48 per cent year-on-year, according to figures from the Office for National Statistics. Public housing and housing association orders in the three months to August 2015 rose by 13 per cent compared with the previous three months, and increased 10 per cent in year-on-year figures.
The Local Government Association has warned that councils face having to cut jobs and services over the next few months as they try to recoup some of a £1 billion deficit caused by inflation and increasing food and fuel prices. Councils were given three-year budgets last April, but they were based on inflation running at 2.7 per cent, rather than the 4.7 per cent it is currently. This has lead to a £500 million shortfall in each of the next three years. Councils have already had to spend an additional £374 million in fuel costs and £80 million more on school food.
Local authorities in Wales are taking on average 149 days to meet legal requirements over homeless households, up from an average of 113 days in 2013/07. However the research showed that there was a 31 per cent reduction in the number of homeless households living in B&B accommodation, and a 44 per cent fall in the number of homeless households with children in B&Bs. The number of affordable homes created across Wales also fell to seven per cent of new homes, down from nine per cent from the previous year.
Nationwide said that house prices fell for the eleventh consecutive month, down 1.7 per cent last month, the biggest annual drop since their records began. Prices are now 12.4 per cent lower than a year ago, with the average house having lost £23,000 from its value. House prices will continue to fall in the short term, but longer term prospects are ‘more sound’ it said.
According to the Bank of England (BoE) Britain’s banks and building societies are set to make even more cutbacks in their lending, and should expect more defaults from customers on their loans. The BoE also released its housing equity withdrawal figures for the second quarter of the year. Compared with the £5.2 billion worth of equity withdrawn in the first quarter of the year, the second quarter showed that homeowners actually injected £2.8 billion into their housing. This is the largest net injection of equity since records began in 1970.
More than 3.5 million households faced fuel poverty in 2013, one million more than in 2005, and the energy watchdog Consumer Focus says the number currently in fuel poverty could have climbed as high as 5.5 million this year. Defined as households who spend more than 10 per cent of their income on fuel, there are also 2.75 million households in England classed as vulnerable – containing a child, elderly person or someone with a long-term illness – who are in fuel poverty.