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MS Leader: New housing a non-starter

The latest data from the Office for National Statistics on the number of new housing starts has made for grim reading. For the three months to the end of March there were 24,140 new starts, down 11% on the previous quarter.

Only time will tell whether the £30m fund announced last week for those looking to build their own property will have any impact but the quarterly dip in housing starts shows that when it comes to housing, the coalition continues to fail.

Both the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors and Capital Economics say a lack of both development finance and mortgage finance was the main blockage.

After all, if consumers are struggling to get a mortgage and unable to buy, there’s little incentive from the point of view of builders to increase the completion of new properties. The government’s NewBuy scheme was a step in the right direction in rebuilding that direct connection between house builders and lenders. But are we nearing the time for the government to introduce mortgage-lending targets on behalf of banks to provide a further boost?

Meanwhile, the news that 1,000 advisers have pulled out of Abbey’s fast-track panel since the start of May is testament to how hot this issue has become in such a short period of time. Judging by the comments left on Mortgage Strategy Online last week, brokers have had difficulty dealing with the lender’s systems, with many complaining of an inconsistent approach.

But with rumours that Abbey has increased the number of cases it checks from one in 20 to a not-to-be-sniffed-at one in five, the message is clearly that if you are using fast-track there can be no margin for error.

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