Number of new homes built fell as COVID-19 hit
The number of new homes being started in Northern Ireland fell in March as the impact of COVID-19 began, according to the Chartered Institute of Housing (CIH) Northern Ireland.
Justin Cartwright, CIH Northern Ireland national director was responding to new statistics released today by the Department for Communities. The department’s Northern Ireland housing bulletin shows the number of new dwellings started over the January – March quarter was 1,569. This is an 11 per cent decrease on the same quarter last year.
The statistics also show that new starts under the social housing development programme fell significantly in March to 303, compared with 1,510 in the March 2019 quarter. As a result, the total number of new social homes started in 2019/20 was 761 against the government target of 1,850.
Justin said: “Building control inspections largely stopped in the second half of March due to the pandemic, so while the figures will be lower than anticipated, we know COVID-19 began to impact on housebuilding at that time.
“This impact was substantial for the social housing sector. The sharp fall in social housing starts in March is startling and was so significant that the end-of-year figure was less than half of the government target.
“Most social housing starts take place in the final quarter of the year as it can take many months to obtain planning permission. Delays in obtaining planning approval in March, and undesirable risks associated with completing property acquisitions and entering construction contracts, combined to reduce the numbers.
“This highlights the need to move to a multi-year development programme so housing associations do not face artificial end-of-year constraints. The need for new social housing will only increase because of the pandemic.”