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MPs slam 'quality gap' in new housing

Redrow housing in Moston
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The profession has welcomed a report by MPs which says that new homes are failing to meet the quality demanded by consumers

The report by the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for Excellence in the Built Environment calls for a new homes ombudsman to help drive up housebuilding quality and customer services.

It also said that a minimum standard should be set for compliance inspections to counter a ‘race to the bottom’ caused by competition in local authority building control.

Chairman of the APPG, Oliver Colvile MP, said: ‘It is clear to us that there is a quality gap between customer demands and industry delivery. Closing this gap will only come about, we believe, if housebuilders make a concerted effort to create a more consumer-focused culture.’

He said that consumers want an affordable and accessible means of address if homes are not fit for purpose.

The cross-party group said a new ombudsman could help resolve disputes between consumers and builders, funded by a levy on housebuilders.

It also said that sales contracts for new homes should be standardised, to stop buyers being deterred from making claims.

In addition, buyers should have a right to inspect properties before completion to prevent builders from concealing major defects and encourage better quality control and site management.

Builders should also be required to provide buyers with a comprehensive information pack to improve transparency.

The APPG also called for the Department for Communities and Local Government to review warranties, which currently do ‘not match the match the expectations of the consumer’.

Tony Burton, member of the commission of inquiry, said: ’We need to see housebuilders putting consumers at the heart of what they do. This will involve new mechanisms and a fresh culture at every step of the process.’

We need to see housebuilders putting consumers at the heart of what they do

Welcoming the report, RIBA president Jane Duncan said: ‘With increasing concerns about the urgency to achieve sustainable high quality for all new homes, the whole housebuilding industry needs to fundamentally review and coordinate its approach.’

She said that she would like to see better management training and site inspection procedures, alongside far wider use of post-occupancy evaluation.

Duncan also called for more research into improved technical performance and ‘increased promotion of appropriate and well-designed off-site manufacture which delivers higher quality build’.

A spokesman for the Home Builders Federation said: ’The industry is totally committed to delivering high-quality homes and excellent customer service and we will now review all the recommendations made with members and consider how best we act on them.

‘Over recent years, huge improvements in service and quality have been delivered and we look forward to working with government, committee members and other stakeholders to use the recommendations to deliver further improvements for new build buyers.’

Comment

Ben Derbyshire of HTA
’Both at HTA Design, and in my previous existence at The Housing Forum, where I was chair until April this year, I have promoted the idea that a consumer-facing feedback loop for homebuilders would improve their product, their competitiveness as businesses and their relationship with customers.

’Our Home Performance Labelling project at The Housing Forum demonstrated the capacity of Information Age techniques to transform the situation and create the opportunity for many purchasers who would not currently consider buying a new home (because of an allegiance to the perceived qualities of old ones), to understand the benefits of doing so.

’We must not give up on our commitment to delivering quality as well as quantity in the housing market. The continued retreat of small-government neo-liberalism from any appetite for standards and regulation could also be seen as an opportunity for building industry professionals to collaborate on improving the performance of the products we design.’

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