According to figures published today by the Department for Communities and Local Government for England, house building starts jumped 15% in the first three months of 2011 compared to a year ago.
There were just over 29,000 starts in the year to March, which was 26% ahead of the quarterly winter figure.
But even at these improved building rates the industry is only only on course to start 116,000 houses in 2011, woefully fewer than historic building levels. Starts in the quarter were still 20,000 down on the first quarter of 2007.
Housing minister Grant Shapps seized on the figures as good reason for optimism in the construction sector, but said there would be no room for complacency in the drive to build more homes.
Government plans are well advanced for a wholescale return of powers to councils and communities, so they can make their own decisions on housing and development issues and boost economic growth.
Shapps said: “Today’s figures are welcome, but they are only the start of the story.
“I’m determined that there should be no slowing down on the road to recovery, so we will continue dismantling the failed Regional Strategies and their legacy of animosity between developers and communities, and return powers to the local level so communities can drive economic growth and create new jobs in their area.
“The construction industry that builds the homes this country desperately needs can also expect more help.
“We will work closely with house builders and listen to their suggestions about how we can improve, and continue to strip away the bureaucracy and red tape that for so long has piled unfair costs on this vital sector of our economy.”
He said: “The first cash payments under the New Homes Bonus have been made, so communities can experience the benefits that growth brings.
“Totalling almost £200m, these payments are a significant amount of funding at a time when public finances are tight, and it’s now crucial that councils talk to their communities about how they would like to spend this money, and what growth they would like to see in future.”