Housing development is on the up, according to official data, but output still lags well behind the supply levels of the boom years.

Figures out today from the National House Building Council (NHBC) reveal that the number of registrations to build new homes reached 9,163 in October – the highest level for nearly 18 months.

During the three months from August to October 2009, NHBC received 24,896 applications to build new homes in the UK - an increase of 27% on the same period last year.

Imtiaz Farookhi, NHBC chief executive, said the figures supported the growing view that the worst may be over for the beleaguered housebuilding industry.

But he warned: “These figures are still well below the buoyant levels we saw in late 2007 and it is still very difficult to predict when and to what extent recovery will come, especially as we enter the winter period. The coming months will be a testing time for the industry, and it may be some time before we can confidently say that the industry is in recovery.”

The NHBC data follow similar figures earlier this week from Communities and Local Government, which show that housing starts in England have now risen for the three consecutive quarters.

RICS chief economist Simon Rubinsohn commented: “The latest figures are still weak in a historic context and suggest that the total starts for the year will struggle to come in much above 90,000. Significantly, this is barely a third of what is required over the coming years given likely trends in demography and household formation. The numbers for 2010 should be a little higher although with development finance still constrained, we think it improbable they will reach 130,000 even with a recovery in the wider economy.”

Rubinsohn added: “The resulting shortfall in new property coming to the market represents a medium term time bomb for the housing market, potentially making it even harder for first-time buyers to take that initial step on the property ladder.”