UK housing starts this year could be down 40% due to COVID: minister

LONDON (Reuters) - The number of new housing starts in the United Kingdom could be down as much as 40% this year because of the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, British Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick said on Thursday. "As a result of the pandemic, the number of starts this year will be well down on 240,000, it's difficult to know at the moment, but it could be as much as 30 or 40% less than that," Jenrick told Sky News. "We'll have to see how quickly the economy can bounce back. This year and next year will be very challenging for the industry," said Jenrick, who was speaking as the government outlined plans to reform Britain's planning regime to speed up homebuilding.