Figures released by the government today show housing starts were up by 22 per cent year on year to hit 137,780 in the 12 months to June 2014.
This represents an additional 30,410 new housing starts in England, while the number of starts in Wales grew by 500.
Although figures for Scotland are yet to be finalised, the only region of the UK where housing starts fell was Northern Ireland, where starts dropped by 660.
In England, the additional 30,410 housing starts represented the largest year-on-year increase since 1975/76.
However, it is still some way from the 200,000-plus new homes that need to be built each year as the UK grapples with severe housing shortages.
Private housing has been the main driver behind growth in England over the past year, with 24,840 starts since June last year.
During the last quarter, private starts grew by 2 per cent, while starts by housing associations were up by 12 per cent.
Over the past year, there have been an additional 5,060 starts among housing associations in England, although association starts in Northern Ireland have fallen by 40 over the same period.
Latest govt figures show we’re still building less than half of the 250,000 homes needed to address England’s housing shortage. #ukhousing
— Shelter (@Shelter) August 21, 2014
Overall, seasonally adjusted starts are now 112 per cent above the low point of March 2009, but they still remain 26 per cent below the pre-recession peak level of housing starts in March 2007.
Help to Buy has fuelled demand for new homes over the past year and completions under the scheme reached a record high in June 2014.
Major housebuilders have increased their number of starts and completions during 2014, with Persimmon this week reporting a 28 per cent increase in its legal completions during H1.
Bovis announced this week it had increased its legal completions by 54 per cent over the same period, growing from 963 to 1,487, while the company’s pre-tax profits jumped by 166 per cent during H1 2014.
Private sector housebuilding in England over last year (to Q2): Completions: 90,850 Starts: 111,330 pic.twitter.com/ooMWwVLVLW
— Neal Hudson (@resi_analyst) August 21, 2014
Housing minister Brandon Lewis claimed the figures represented a victory for the government.
“Wherever you look across the housing market, the signs of progress are clear,” he said.
“Housebuilding in England is up by over a fifth compared with last year, orders for building materials are rising at the quickest pace for 11 years and companies are hiring new staff at the fastest rate since 1997.
“This progress did not happen by accident. It bears testament to our efforts to reform the planning system and help homebuyers while paving the way for housebuilders to boost their output.
“But there’s still more to do, and improving the housing market will remain a vital part of our long-term economic plan.”
Labour’s shadow secretary for communities and local government Hilary Benn said: “While the Tories say that all is fine with the housing market and everything is back on track, the truth is that they have presided over the lowest level of housebuilding of any peacetime government since the 1920s.
“David Cameron’s failure to tackle the shortage of homes is why the cost of housing is rising beyond the reach of many young people and families.
“You can’t deal with the cost-of-living crisis without building more homes for the next generation, and that’s why Labour has committed to getting at least 200,000 homes built a year by 2020.”
Deloitte Real Estate head of residential projects James Pargeter said: “The UK is one of the very few EU countries in which housing construction new starts - per 1,000 people - actually increased from 2012 to 2013, and by nearly a quarter.
“While we still need to build far more housing here in the UK, this increasing trend in construction is a positive sign that we are at least moving in the right direction.
“This is being maintained into 2014, with latest statistics showing annual housing construction starts are up by another 22 per cent in the 12 months to June 2014.
“We expect this ongoing performance to continue to compare well to the rest of the EU in 2014.”