A report from the House of Commons public accounts committee this week highlights concerns about build quality in new-build housing. It says that the Ministry of Housing has been focusing so much energy on trying to get tower blocks made safe since the Grenfell Tower fire that little interest has been shown in the quality of new-build housing estates.
“We are concerned that the Department [the Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government] and local authorities are not doing enough to prevent poor build quality of new homes,” the report says. “There are concerns about poor quality of the build of new homes and that of office accommodation converted into residential accommodation through permitted development rights. The Department is focusing on the quality and safety of high-rise residential buildings after the Grenfell fire. It does not have a specific programme to address concerns about the quality of new builds. It has some initiatives which aim to improve the quality of design of new homes, including revising the Department’s design guide, although these do not address the quality of the final build.”
The report, called Planning and the broken housing market, recommends that the Ministry of Housing sets out, by October 2019, how it will work with local authorities, developers, and other agencies on how it will ‘prevent, penalise and compensate for poor residential build quality’.
The public account committee also says that developers are running rings round local authorities to avoid paying their full contribution to local infrastructure.
“The system to get contributions from developers to the cost of infrastructure is not working effectively, and too often favours developers at the expense of local communities,” the MPs say, adding: “Local authorities may lack the skills to negotiate contributions from developers through section 106 agreements and there is little transparency of these negotiations.”
Yesterday prime minister Theresa May addressed the Chartered Institute of Housing conference and was critical of the size of many new-build homes. “I cannot defend a system in which owners and tenants are forced to accept tiny homes with inadequate storage… Where developers feel the need to fill show homes with deceptively small furniture… And where the lack of universal standards encourages a race to the bottom,” she said.
She said that her successor should introduce mandatory universal regulations to provide clear national standards for house-building.