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RIBA attacks government over housing standards u-turn

RIBA president Ruth Reed has voiced ‘serious concerns’ over the government’s decision to abandon the Homes and Communities Agency’s (HCA) core housing standards for all new publicly-backed homes

Yesterday housing minister Grant Shapps announced he was ditching the national standards, as well as ‘the cocktail of local building standards’, as part of red-tape slashing drive to ‘reduce the unnecessary cost and hassle’ facing developers and encourage housebuilding.

Speaking to the National House Building Council, he said: ‘We’re scrapping expensive new standards for homes built with government cash and on public land.

‘There’s no good reason why homes built on public land should be built any differently to those of high quality on private land. So I’m getting rid of this unnecessary requirement, and I’ll be working hard to make sure that, in the long run, the standards that apply to private and public housing are exactly the same.’

However Reed has branded the decision ‘deeply troubling’ and warned it would have ‘profound implications for communities across the country’.

She said: ‘The proposed HCA standards were designed to raise the overall quality of publicly funded housing and ensure that new homes meet the most basic of lifestyle needs – reform was desperately needed.

“We agree that there is too much regulation in the housing sector, but the HCA standards were designed to harmonise regulation and provide clarity for industry. The Government needs to ensure that it provides strong, clear guidance which underlines the importance of design quality, and we are concerned that the proposed menu of options for local authorities may lead to further confusion and lower standards.

She added: ‘UK house builders have delivered the smallest homes in Europe, and have built homes which have been consistently judged to be of a poor quality by the Government’s own design watchdog. The Government should be putting the interests of communities first.’

Sources within the industry had estimated that the new core standards for development funded, or on land owned by the HCA, would have cost an additional £8,000 per home on average.

Other comment:

Steve Nancarrow of building defects inspection company New Home Advisor, branded the move to scrap core standards as a ‘disgrace’. He said: ‘This decision will allow new home developers to put profit before quality for many years to come.  

‘“There is already a marked difference in quality between private and social housing. I have seen it with my own eyes time and time again.

‘The people living in government funded accommodation are some of the most vulnerable in our society.  Why should they suffer?  They deserve better standards not worse.’

 

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