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Housing starts continued their slow recovery in the first quarter of this year, according to government figures issued on Tuesday. Starts reached 48,000, compared with 47,100 in the first quarter of 1993.Private house builders' starts rose from 34,000 to 37,500 over the year, while starts by housing associations fell from 12,500 to 10,200, reflecting cuts in public spending on social housing.The figures put the house building industry on course for its best year since the previous boom faded in 1989, so long as interest rates stay low and buyers are not deterred by tax rises.Meanwhile, the National House Building Council said this week that builders applied to it for structural insurance on 15,300 new homes in April, compared with 13,500 in April 1993 - up 13 per cent. CONSTRUCTION NEWS