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Number of new homes in England nears pre-crisis high

[LONDON] The number of new homes coming onto the market in England reached nearly 220,000 in 2016-17, just short of the pre-financial crisis peak, as the government faces pressure to solve a growing housing shortage.

The figure is still below the roughly 250,000 homes per year experts and many politicians say Britain needs to build just to keep up with demand, which has outstripped supply especially in London, pushing up prices and rents.

Finance minister Philip Hammond is under pressure to find more money to boost housebuilding in his budget statement next week.

The ruling Conservatives are anxious to show they are meeting the needs of particularly younger voters, who largely backed the opposition Labour Party in a snap election in June, depriving Prime Minister Theresa May of a majority.

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The number of new homes coming on the market in England stood at 217,350 homes, comprising mainly 183,570 new homes being built but also around 40,000 properties which were converted from other uses into homes, according to government data.

In 2007-8, the total stood at 223,530 units after which the construction of new homes nearly halved at its lowest ebb as many smaller builders went bust and larger providers merged and cut back their work.

A lack of affordable housing has forced many younger people to live at home for longer with their parents, rent well into their 30s or buy properties further away from their place of work, pushing the issue to the top of the political agenda.

The government said on Thursday it would help housing associations boost the number of homes they build, in a further sign that ministers are looking away from traditional builders who are unable to meet demand on their own.

But Mr Hammond said on Wednesday there was no one solution to the country's long-standing housing crisis and hinted at further plans in his Nov 22 budget.

"There is no silver bullet. There isn't a single thing that solves the challenge of affordability in the housing market," he said at a round-table event according to comments released by the finance ministry.

"Next week we will start to set out our plan for addressing the housing challenges in this country, making sure that the next generation has the same opportunities that their parents did for home-ownership."