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Lack of new homes may save UK market from Brexit-driven crash

Construction lags behind govt targets, suggesting that failure to meet demand will buoy market for some time to come

London

ANYONE fearing a Brexit-induced house-market crash in the UK would do well to remember that the country isn't even close to keeping up with demand for new homes.

While a sharp drop in their shares on Thursday showed that homebuilders are not immune to uncertainty over Britain's economic future, figures released the same day may be more important.

They show that construction continues to lag behind the government's targets, suggesting that a failure to meet demand will buoy the market for some time to come.

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On Friday, UK homebuilders extended their declines after three of the biggest companies in the industry - Persimmon, Taylor Wimpey and Barrett Developments - all fell by more than 7 per cent the previous day. The shares are still trading above the lows reached in 2016.

"We can't ignore there are some headwinds caused by the uncertainty surrounding Brexit," said Grainne Gilmore, head of residential research at Knight Frank.

"The mismatch between supply and demand in many parts of the country - particularly in urban areas - will continue to be one of the factors underpinning home prices in the UK," she added.

Limited access to land, increasing construction costs and a slow planning process mean that homebuilders have failed to deliver enough properties for at least a decade.

To address the problem, the government last year announced an annual target of 300,000 homes. Yet neither developers nor organisations such as the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors believe that is achievable.

On Thursday, the Housing Ministry reported annual delivery of 222,190 net additions to the nation's stock of homes during the 12 months through April - a slight improvement on the previous year.

The problem is especially acute in London, where net additions fell about 20 per cent from a year ago to 31,723 units, less than half the 65,000 units pledged by Mayor Sadiq Khan in his effort to convince voters he could solve the city's chronic housing shortage. BLOOMBERG