JUST one-third of the new houses the region badly needs were built last year, Labour warned yesterday (Wednesday) – a worrying gap of almost 19,000 homes.

The Opposition staged a Commons debate to highlight how the Government had “refused to take the action needed” to tackle a gathering crisis.

Only 4,090 homes were built in the North-East in the 2012-13 financial year, when experts had calculated that 9,000 were needed, Labour said.

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And the ‘housing gap’ was even bigger in Yorkshire, where just 6,990 new houses were completed – when 20,700 are required.

Emma Reynolds, Labour’s housing spokeswoman, said: “The growing housing shortage is central to the cost-of-living crisis, but this Government has refused to take the action needed.

“It is presiding over the lowest levels of house building in peacetime since the 1920s.

“Home ownership remains out of reach of low and middle-income earners, rents will continue to rise faster than wages and waiting lists will grow ever longer.”

But the Government insisted it was “on target” to build 175,000 affordable homes in this parliament, a total investment with £19.5bn.

And housing minister Kris Hopkins came out fighting, accusing Labour of “taking the livelihoods of 250,000 construction workers”, during the recession.

The Conservative minister said: “How many homeless people were created by their actions?”

Mr Hopkins added: “Even in the boom years they failed to deliver the housing that was required.

“The total build dropped to the lowest numbers in a hundred years. They promoted eco towns - ten of them in total - and not one appeared.”

The Town and Country Planning Association (TCPA) has calculated the North-East needs 9,000 extra homes each year – 5,300 in the private sector and 3,800 in social housing.

In Yorkshire, of the 20,700 houses required, 13,600 should be privately-owned and the remaining 7,100 in social housing.

Figures released at the end of last year showed the number of house starts – but not completions – is finally on the rise in this region.

A total of 1,950 homes were started across the North-East and North Yorkshire between June and September last year – up from 1,240 in the same period of 2012.

Labour has vowed to increase house building to at least 200,000 a year by 2020 – although some critics argue London alone needs that number.

Ed Miliband would also give town halls “use it or lose it” powers to levy fees on developers hoarding land with planning permission.

And they would enjoy beefed-up compulsory purchase powers to grab back land that has lain empty for years - despite having been approved for badly-needed homes.

Yesterday, one Tory MP, Alec Shelbrooke, branded those ideas the “Stalinist tactics of land seizure and building wherever they want."