The number of new homes built in England fell to its lowest level since 1946 during 2009, new figures show.

Just 118,000 properties were completed during the 12 months, 17% fewer than during the previous year, according to the Department of Communities and Local Government.

The figure is less than half the 240,000 new homes it is thought need to be built each year if supply is to keep pace with demand, and is also well down on the peak of 168,140 homes which were built during the 12 months to March 2008.

The number of new homes completed during the final three months of the year fell for the eighth consecutive quarter to just 28,200, 12% fewer than during the same period of 2008.

Within this total, the number of properties built by private developers dropped by 11%, while homes built by registered social landlords were 18% lower.

Oliver Gilmartin, senior economist at the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors, said: “The latest figures are disappointing and underline the continuing difficulties facing the construction industry.

“Housing completions in 2009 were the lowest since 1946 in England and the latest quarterly decline in housing starts offers little near-term comfort.

“Furthermore, housing starts are running at more than 50% below what is needed to satisfy projected household growth according to the Government’s own estimates.”