THE number of homes being built across the region still lags behind the tally when the Coalition came to power four years ago, official figures show.

Ministers have hailed “clear progress” in their efforts to speed up developments, with the number of homes started nationwide up by about 20 per cent in one year.

In the North-East and North Yorkshire, starts have risen by eight per cent – from 1,870 in the second quarter of 2013 to 2,020 this year.

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However, that only brings the total within touching distance of the 2,030 homes that were begun between April and June of 2010, the general election year.

In County Durham, for example, there were 410 starts in the most recent quarter – still short of the 440 that got underway in the same period of 2010.

Stockton-on-Tees (down from 190 to 120), Sunderland (down from 310 to 140) and Ryedale (down from 120 to 30) are among other areas that have failed to catch up.

Only Hambleton (up from 30 to 160), Scarborough (up from 70 to 120) and South Tyneside (up from 50 to 100) can claim consistent progress.

In Darlington, starts between April and June this year (110) are up on 2010 (60) – but falling since last year (130).

The Government was sharply criticised for axing many housing programmes when they came to power, triggering a dramatic drop in the number of homes built.

Meanwhile, local councils remain barred from borrowing money to build homes, as the Government relies on the private sector to step in.

The chronic shortage of housing is an issue rising up the political agenda, with hundreds of thousands of families languishing on council waiting lists.

Hilary Benn, Labour's local government spokesman, said: “While the Tories say everything is back on track, the truth is that they have presided over the lowest level of house building of any peacetime Government since the 1920s.”

And the National Housing Federation criticised the absence of a “bold, long-term intervention” to dramatically boost housebuilding.

Rachel Fisher, its head of policy, said: “Politicians from all parties must look beyond the lifetime of the next parliament and commit to end the housing crisis in a generation.”

But Brandon Lewis, the housing minister, said: “Wherever you look across the housing market, the signs of progress are clear.

“Housebuilding in England is up by over a fifth compared to last year, orders for building materials are rising at the quickest pace for 11 years, and companies are hiring new staff at the fastest rate since 1997.

“This progress did not happen by accident. It bears testament to our efforts to reform the planning system and help homebuyers while paving the way for house builders to boost their output.”