Rome, February 6 - The president of Italian builders' association ANCE warned of a withering construction sector in a meeting on Wednesday with centre-right leader Silvio Berlusconi. Paolo Buzzetti complained that 550,000 jobs in the construction and related sectors had been lost since Italy's current economic crisis began in 2007. Buzzetti said there is ''a true boom in construction business failures, by now close to a record figure of 10,000, and destined to increase further''. Buzzetti also warned the ex-premier that ''there is no growth without construction''. Italians' traditional refuge for their capital - home-ownership - is under threat, Buzzetti continued. ''It is increasingly difficult for Italians to buy a home. Mortgages for families were halved in 2012, and (residential property) sales fell by 23.9%, or 140,000 transactions,'' Buzzetti declared. From 2007 to today, investment in new housing has fallen 54.2%, and the volume of transactions has fallen 48%, ANCE reported. ''Business liquidity is at a historic low. Loans fell 12% in 2012, confirming an extremely negative downward trend continuing since 2007,'' said Buzzetti. ''The (State) public administration continues to not pay (its debts to the sector). Debts toward construction companies are estimated to be around 19 billion euros. The companies can't wait anymore and are they closing in hundreds,'' Buzzetti added. The meeting between ANCE and Berlusconi is the first of a series of pre-electoral meetings between ANCE and Italian political leaders to promote pro-construction sector measures.