February 19, 2010 / 9:18 AM / 10 years ago

Housebuilding hits lowest since 1946

A builder works at a Bovis homes housing development near Bolton, northern England, July 9, 2008. REUTERS/Phil Noble

LONDON (Reuters) - Housing completions in England fell by almost a fifth in 2009, government figures showed on Thursday, taking them to less than half the level economists say is needed to keep up with demand.

Just 118,000 homes were built last year, the lowest total since 1946, according to the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors, and 17 percent lower than in 2008.

“The latest figures are disappointing and underline the continuing difficulties facing the construction industry,” said RICS senior economist Oliver Gilmartin.

“Housing starts are running at more than 50 percent below what is needed to satisfy projected household growth according to the government’s own estimates,” he added.

The figures raise doubts over the government’s ability to meet its new homes target. In 2007, Prime Minister Gordon Brown announced plans to build 2 million new homes by 2016 — the equivalent of 240,000 a year.

Reporting by Christina Fincher; Editing by Jon Boyle

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