6:00am Friday 9th May 2014
By Claire Armstrong
House-building is on the up again in Bradford after six years in the doldrums.
The district has now been named as one of the country’s top ten areas for building new homes outside London.
Last year, the Telegraph & Argus led a campaign called Bradford’s Housing Timebomb, which highlighted the struggle of people unable to buy their first homes, the many stalled developments across the district and the spiralling housing waiting list.
But Bradford appears to have turned a corner, with new figures from the National House Building Council (NHBC) showing that the number of homes being built here is now at its highest since the market crashed in 2007.
And local developers are reporting booming sales, with people buying off-plan to snap up new homes built in the district.
The NHBC figures show that builders registered with it – which construct about 80 per cent of the UK’s new homes – completed 560 properties in the Bradford district in 2013, the tenth highest number of any city outside London.
This compares to the depths of the recession in 2010, when its registered builders completed less than half this number, at 205.
Skipton Properties, which is registered with an alternative organisation called the LABC, has developments across the district, in Haworth, Keighley and Bolton Woods in Bradford.
Sales director Sarah Barraclough said the market was definitely hotting up after six slow years.
She said: “We have seen the start of things picking up. We are selling houses quicker than we were, there just seems to be more buyers.
“We do not have people fighting for houses, it’s not going crazy but we sold a house on Friday and then had a frantic call on Monday from someone asking, ‘Have we missed out, have we missed out?’ “And they had missed out.”
At its development The Poplars, part of Bradford’s New Bolton Woods “urban village”, the firm is building 30 homes for private sale, as well as 20 affordable homes.
Although it has only been on-site for 11 weeks, and does not even have a show-home, the company has so far sold 11 plots off-plan.
Mrs Barraclough said many of the homes were being bought through the Government’s Help to Buy scheme.
And she said this growing appetite for new homes would drive further house-building.
She said: “The way it works is that we anticipate sales rates and build accordingly, so if the appetite for sales is higher then we build quicker.”
Mrs Barraclough said while the market for new homes was looking very encouraging, they were now hoping to see a similar rise in house prices, which hadn’t yet happened.
She said: “At the moment we are quite happy with the sales rate increasing, that’s great, and the sales values will start to follow because the appetite is there. That is only going to drive sales prices up.”
Bradford Council’s executive member for housing, Councillor Val Slater (Lab), welcomed the new figures, saying it showed that Bradford’s fortunes were on the up.
She said: “It is very encouraging and shows the economy in Bradford is taking off again.
“Obviously, the Council has played its part – we have got building projects ourselves with money we got from the Government, they should be on-site very soon, and we are just bidding for the next round of Government money.”
But Coun Slater said there was some way to go yet before the district hit its house-building targets of about 2,200 a year.
She said: “It is an improvement but it is a big stretch so I doubt we will be getting there. We are doing better than we have been, and that is encouraging. People in Bradford do need homes.”
Housing Minister and Keighley MP Kris Hopkins said he was “delighted” by the upturn in house-building.
But he urged Bradford Council to place more of these new homes in the inner city to save the district’s precious green fields.
He said: “It is vitally important that Labour-led Bradford Council now has proactive conversations with the many people who want and deserve a decent home to live in.
“There are a number of appropriate and available sites in and around the city centre where the population growth is at its greatest and where additional housing could be located. In so doing, Bradford can be revitalised and new investment opportunities will be created.”
NHBC chief executive Mike Quinton said its figures showed “sustained growth and consolidation in the UK house building industry”, especially in places like Bradford.
He said: “Over the past 15 months we have seen a genuine return of confidence to the industry as builders strive to meet the growing demand for new homes that the country clearly needs.
“London continues to be the major driver for growth in house building. But our figures also show that other UK cities outside the capital such as Bradford are also showing encouraging signs of growth.”
However, he warned that this growth was coming from a very low base and the UK still had a “chronic shortage of new homes”.
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