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  • The government’s Help to Buy equity loan scheme has hit 10,000 reservations since it launched in April, according to the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG). DCLG said that the scheme was “giving the confidence to housebuilders to deliver and build more homes.” It added that Help to Buy’s mortgage guarantee scheme would further increase mortgage availability and “help promote confidence and housebuilding”. Ministers cited Help to Buy and other measures as proof that its interventions into the housing market “were working”. It stated that new housing supply was at its highest since 2008, with 319,000 additional homes added in England between 2010 and 2012. More than 150,000 affordable homes had been built over the past three years through affordable housing programmes, and – according to CML – the number of first time buyers was at its highest since 2007. 
  • The housing market is “on the road to recovery”, said the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors on August 13th, with the highest number of potential buyers seen for four years and house prices growing at their fastest rate since 2006. RICS’ housing market survey for July showed that a net balance of 53% more chartered surveyors reported a rise rather than a fall in demand for housing compared to 38% in June. The signs of recovery were evident across the UK, RICS said, with the West Midlands and the North East seeing the largest increases in buyer activity last month. Accordingly, house prices rose across the country for the fourth consecutive month and at their fastest rate since the peak of the market in November 2006. 
  • Housing starts in England climbed 33% in the June quarter 2013 against the same period last year, according to figures from the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG). Starts totalled 29,510, a 6% rise on the March quarter. Private housing starts increased 7% to 23,990 against this previous quarter, whilst public housing starts dropped 3% to 5,110. Against the June quarter of 2012, private starts were up 33% and public housing 28%. Completions dropped 4% against the June quarter of 2012 to total 27,270. But the figure was a 9% rise on the previous quarter. Against the previous quarter, private completions increased 11% to 22,110 and those for public housing were up 3% to 4,940. Compared to the same quarter in 2012, private completions rose 2% whilst public completions fell 25%. And over the 12 months to June 2013, housing starts rose 7% to total 110,530 compared to the same period last year. Both private and public annual starts rose 7%, totalling 88,010 and 20,730 respectively. But annual completions fell 9% to 106,820, with private completions decreasing 4% to 85,100 and public completions sliding 25% to 20,510. 
  • Work in the UK commercial sector grew at its fastest rate for over six years in July, according to the latest Savills’ commercial development activity survey. On balance 20.1% of developers saw an increase in commercial activity in July compared to the previous month, up from 18.9% on balance in June. Savills said the rate of expansion was “sharp” and the fastest since May 2007. The survey covers new build and refurbishment activity across the offices, retail, leisure and industrial sectors. Private commercial work rose markedly, with on balance 31.4% of developers reporting a rise, while in public sector projects, on balance 1.4% of developers reported a rise. Commercial developers in the UK remained upbeat about the prospects for commercial development growth in three months’ time, with on balance 25.1% of developers saying they had positive sentiment, up from 14% in June and the highest rating for seven and a half years.
  • Architects are more positive about workloads today than they have been for at least four-and-a-half years. Publishing the results of its July 2013 Future Trends Survey, the RIBA said the workload index had risen substantially that month to +23, up from +17 in June 2013. This is the most positive workload forecast recorded since the Institute began its Future Trends Survey in January 2009 and also continues of the upward trend witnessed since the beginning of this year. The results will be welcomed by the entire construction industry given that architects are often viewed as a leading indicator in the sector.

UK Economy

  • The CBI had raised its growth forecast on the back of a pick-up in confidence across a range of sectors in the economy, including construction. The employers’ organisation forecast growth of 1.2% in 2013, up from a forecast of 1.0% in May, after what it said was a better than expected second quarter and signs of a pick-up in confidence across a broad range of sectors, including services, construction and manufacturing. In 2014, the CBI expects the economy to gather pace, forecasting 2.3% GDP growth - up from a 2.0% forecast in May - as disposable income increases and business and housing investment support domestic demand.
  • All five major UK banks recorded a profit in the first half of the year, for the first time since 2010, a KPMG performance report says. However, return on equity is at half pre-crisis levels and KPMG says the pace of regulatory change is holding back banking and economic growth. It also warns that the next systemic shock may come from a cyber attack or outage rather than a liquidity crunch. Its report looks at Standard Chartered, RBS, Barclays, HSBC and Lloyds group.

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