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Building regulations: the next generation of housing policy

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Policymakers John Calcutt, Yvette Cooper, Bob Kerslake and Ruth Kelly are all influencing housing legislation. Here, Cathy Strongman sifts through the latest regulations

In December 2006, the government’s Communities and Local Government (CLG) department published Planning Policy Statement 3 (PPS3), which set out the national planning policy framework for delivering the government’s housing objectives in response to recommendations in the 2004 Barker Review – which included improving affordability and investing more money in social housing. Since then, a myriad of reports, papers and policies have followed.

The Housing Green Paper

Published on 23 July 2007, under then housing minister Yvette Cooper, the Housing Green Paper outlines plans to deliver three million new homes by 2020. It sets the target for 2 million of these homes to be built by 2016, after which 240,000 homes should be built per annum – a scale unseen in the house building since the early 1960s. A total of £8 billion has been pledged for affordable housing from 2008-11, with 50,000 new social rented homes a year to be built in that period, and over 25,000 shared-ownership and shared-equity homes a year to be constructed by 2011. The paper also stresses the need for well-designed and more environmentally friendly homes linked to good schools, transport and healthcare.

The Code For Sustainable Homes

Launched by CLG on 13 December 2006, the Code for Sustainable Homes provides
a new national standard for the sustainable design and construction of new housing, replacing the BRE EcoHomes scheme in England. Since April 2007, appliance to the code has been voluntary, except for Housing Corporation or English Partnerships developments, but the government is likely
to make it a mandatory rating in April 2008. The Code is based on a star rating at six levels, with level one requiring thermal efficiency just above Part L 2006; level three being just above EcoHomes Very Good; and level six being ‘zero carbon’. Each level has minimum standards for thermal and water efficiency, as well as minimum requirements for materials, surface-water run-off and waste. The government has stated that all new homes should meet code level six by 2016.

The Carbon Challenge

The Carbon Challenge, launched on 7 February 2007 under Communities Secretary Ruth Kelly and spearheaded by English Partnerships, is an initiative to challenge housebuilders to design and build zero-carbon and low-carbon communities. Last December it was announced that Barratt Developments will create the first new community at the site of the former Hanham Hall Hospital near Bristol.

The Callcutt Review Of Housebuilding Delivery

Published on 22 November 2007, the review was compiled by John Callcutt, previously chief executive of English Partnerships. The report concludes that the housebuilding industry is able to meet the government’s target of building 240,000 homes per year by 2016 to zero-carbon standards. Suggestions to enable this include the establishment of a new body within the government to lead the delivery of zero-carbon developments. The review also suggests that funding penalties should be introduced for housebuilders who fail to meet new standards of customer satisfaction and that a design-review process for housebuilding should be introduced, run by a statutory consultee which could not be overruled on quality by planning committees. A formal government response is due later this year.

The Housing And Regeneration Bill

The Housing and Regeneration Bill was introduced in the House of Commons on 15 November 2007 and gave effect to the government’s proposals to create the Homes and Communities Agency (HCA). The Agency, which is expected to start work in April 2009, will combine English Partnerships, the Housing Corporation, and the operational delivery side of the Department of Communities and Local Government and will be headed by Bob Kerslake. The HCA will have a key role in delivering the government’s target of 3 million new homes by 2020 and will oversee the delivery of major housing and regeneration projects including the Thames Gateway.

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