Devon and Cornwall at heart of housing revival
The Government has hailed the Westcountry as being at the heart of a house building revival that further points towards economic recovery in the region.
Developers began work on 4,780 new homes in Devon and Cornwall in the last year, 720 more than the previous 12 months, bringing the total to the highest level since the economic crisis began.
A Department for Communities and Local Government report to accompany the official statistics stated there were "particularly strong areas of new build starts along the M5 corridor from Devon up to Worcestershire".
Cornwall, Teignbidge, Exeter and East Devon were among the best performing areas in the UK, boasting more than six "starts" per 1,000 homes.
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But commentators warned the rate was still less than half the number of new houses needed each year to tackle the "chronic shortage of homes", which has driven up prices to push them out of the reach of families in the far South West.
And while work began on more new houses, the growth in completed properties appears to have stalled. Some 4,050 private and social properties were ready to move into across the two counties, 950 fewer than the previous year.
While many observers say only more housebuilding will restore sanity to a housing market liable to artificial "bubbles" that prompted the crash in 2007, some rural communities across the region are opposed to a rash of house-building ruining the countryside.
Communities Minister Brandon Lewis said: "Under the last administration, housebuilding fell to its lowest peacetime rate since the 1920s. But today's figures clearly show Government action bringing confidence back into the housing market and getting Britain building again, with starts increasing by a third year-on-year.
"We've already delivered over 330,000 new homes over the past three years, and 150,000 affordable homes. There is more to do, but today's figures reinforce the momentum towards getting Britain building again."
Nationally, around 29,510 new homes were started between April and June, marking the highest quarterly total seen since 2010, DCLG figures showed.
The figures also showed that 106,820 house builds have been completed over the last year, which is still less than half of the 250,000 annual total housing charity Shelter believes is required to meet demand.
A string of reports have pointed to the housing market bursting back into life in recent months, amid a sharp increase in mortgage availability and rising home buyer and seller confidence.
The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (Rics) reported last week that house prices are rising at their fastest rate since 2006, while mortgage lenders said that first-time buyer numbers have soared to their highest levels since 2007.
The figures have been boosted by Government measures to give home buyers a helping hand including its Help to Buy scheme.
More than 10,000 reservations for homes were made in the first four months of the initiative.
While most pundits are cautious about over-egging the economic recovery, figures last week showed the region's dole queue was at its shortest for almost five years with 22,825 people were claiming Jobseekers' Allowance in Devon and Cornwall in July, just over 1,000 fewer than in June.
House building is a vital sector for the far South West, bringing jobs and knock-on effects for spending in the service sector.
But Jack Dromey, Labour's Shadow Housing Minister, warned the number of homes actually built over the past year was down 9%.
He said: "These figures confirm that David Cameron's Government has presided over the lowest level of homes built than any other peacetime Government since the 1920s."