UK housebuilding recovers with figures reaching pre-COVID levels

With a strong performance in Q4 2020, UK housebuilding is returning to pre-coronavirus levels. And demand and confidence remains high for new-build homes.

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on UK housebuilding, leading to delays in the delivery of new-build homes. Figures from the National House-Building Council (NHBC) reveals 123,151 new homes were registered in 2020. This is 23% down on figures from 2019. In 2020, there was 115,455 new homes completed, which is also 23% down from the previous year.

In Q4 of 2020, the housebuilding sector picked up pace with 39,749 new homes registered. This is only 2% lower than in Q4 2019. Additionally, the NHBC registered 39,170 new home completions in Q4 2020. This is just 7% down from the same quarter the previous year and an impressive 34% increase from Q3 2020.

As the main UK warranty and insurance provider for new homes, the NHBC requires builders to register houses with them before commencing construction. The data shows that housebuilding is recovering to pre-pandemic levels with the final quarter of 2020 seeing strong growth. Additionally, developers and builders are confident in moving forward with projects.

Steve Wood, chief executive of NHBC, states: “Against the backdrop of the Covid-19 pandemic, the new build housing market has held up very well, with housebuilders showing resilience and adaptability throughout 2020.”

The construction sector adapted quickly

The most substantial fall in the sector was seen during the second quarter of 2020, when many building sites had to close temporarily. This led to construction delays. However, in the summer, the UK housebuilding sector rebounded quickly and adapted to COVID-safe working practices.

Steve Wood comments: “Last Spring saw a sharp shock to the housing market and it is heartening that by the close of 2020, productivity levels had moved very close to those seen in late 2019.

“Confidence in the housing market, particularly for newly-built homes, remains strong with many larger housebuilders forward sold into the summer despite the continued impact of the pandemic and prevailing economic uncertainties.”

While the new guidelines may have reduced activity overall, the construction sector has seen major benefits from implementing new approaches. Construction sites are seeing better planning, more health and safety measures and general productivity improvements.

The construction sector adapted well to the challenges the industry has faced in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. These improvements could even lead to long-term change for the better. In months and years to come, the delivery of high-quality new-build properties could be made in a more timely and efficient manner.

The future of UK housebuilding

Throughout the pandemic, the government has supported housebuilding. “Build, build, build” is set to play a substantial role in the UK’s economic recovery. The government has specifically made housebuilding a key focus and has pledged to “level up” the country.

Recent data has shown that in 2019/2020, housebuilding soared to a 33-year high in England. The delivery of additional housing can help help meet the growing demand and help rectify the housing shortage.

Reforms to the planning sector will likely speed up the planning process and help deliver more housing. Higher green standards are also set to be introduced to improve the energy efficiency of new-build homes. This will improve the quality of new-builds and reduce greenhouse gas emissions from new homes.

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