PROPERTY chiefs in Yorkshire have called for urgent government action to tackle “woefully low” levels of housebuilding in the region.

Construction levels for both private and public housing in the region fell again during the three months to September, according to the latest survey from the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors.

A net balance of 21% more chartered surveyors reported decreases in public sector housing workloads, while 4% more respondents stated that private sector projects had also fallen rather than risen.

Overall construction workloads across Yorkshire also fell. The RICS said the sector had seen no tangible growth for about five years – and was hoping that the government’s new £50bn stimulus package would go some way to boosting badly needed development.

Building firms in the region saw their margins continue to deteriorate last quarter – with revenue failing to keep pace with growing costs.

Despite this, a net balance of 19% more surveyors in Yorkshire and Humber expect margins to stabilise on the back of potentially growing workloads. This is the first positive reading since late 2007 and suggests that a cautious optimism may be slowly returning to the region’s market.

Expectations for employment levels also improved – 39% more surveyors in the region expecting an increase rather than a decrease in jobs for construction workers over the coming 12 months.

Spokesman Ian Tomlinson said: “The headline that lenders are open for business seems to be offset by the strict covenants and security they require which is still prohibiting the majority of house building in the region.

“Lenders’ risk-averse approach is understandable given the criticism they have had for previous decisions, but the cycle needs to be broken somehow.

“Many of our region’s cities are forecast to grow considerably over the next decade, but this many not happen if lenders do not back them.”

Simon Rubinsohn, RICS chief economist, said: “The government’s £50bn stimulus package will hopefully deliver a much needed shot in the arm for the sector, but we would like to have seen a greater level of investment in housing.

“Not only would this provide relatively swift economic returns but it would also go some way to alleviating the pressure on the country’s worryingly low supply of homes.

“However, with the raft of measures recently put in place by the government, it appears that there is some optimism that things could improve over the next 12 months in terms of workloads, profits and jobs.

“If this comes to pass, it will be an extremely welcome lift for both the construction sector and the wider economy.”