DEVELOPERS FOCUS IS ON CUTTING COSTS – MP
The UK land market allows far too much speculation, driving up land prices and artificially inflating the amount of money many developers believe they have to make as profit before they will build a scheme, says MP Helen Hayes.
This results in a structural focus across the UK development industry on the bottom line – and therefore on cutting costs – she told fellow MPs.
“Since staff costs for development are relatively fixed, it is the cost of materials that is pared back to the minimum.
“On so many housing schemes, any generosity of design that was intended in the original plans is cost engineered out by using cheaper materials, meaner proportions, or cutting corners on the build itself.
“This is simply not an adequate basis for a housing market that needs to deliver so much so quickly, and it is not acceptable that short-term profits are being achieved at the expense of long-term quality and the health and wellbeing of residents.
“Last year the all-party parliamentary group (APPG) for excellence in the built environment, of which I was joint vice-chair undertook an inquiry into the quality of new build homes entitled ‘More homes, fewer complaints’.
“The inquiry was undertaken in response to an increase in complaints from people who had purchased a brand new home—the most expensive item that they had ever purchased—only to find when they moved in that there was something seriously wrong with it, such as rising damp, faulty electrics, the drains not being properly connected, or poor quality fixtures and fittings, and the very great difficulty that many people faced when they tried to seek redress.
“Research by Which? found that under this Government more than half of new homes have serious defects, indicating that this is a widespread and serious problem.
“Such situations are deeply distressing and completely unacceptable. “Not only is the brand new home that someone eagerly anticipated moving into flawed, but the flaws can seriously undermine the quality of day to day life and physical and mental health, and can take months or even years to resolve.
“Since 2010, the Government have removed many of the policy requirements that had previously helped to drive up the quality of design, including the zero-carbon homes programme and the lifetime homes standard, which increased the number of homes being built to a fully accessible standard for disabled people.
“The Government have also refused to incorporate the nationally described space standards into building control regulations, resulting in a situation where the number of homes built below the standards more than trebled from 2013 to 2016, and some homes are being built in London at just 16 square metres.
“A clear and rapid change of approach is needed to set the standards UK residents require from their new homes.
“The lack of direct Government funding for genuinely affordable social housing—a problem in itself in addressing the housing crisis—also contributes directly to the issue of poor design quality.
“The number of social homes built with Government funding since the start of the coalition Government in 2010 has dropped by a staggering 95 per cent, and the Government have not increased the borrowing cap for councils.
“This means that the delivery of affordable housing—often not affordable at all if it is built to this Government’s definition of affordability—is increasingly dependent on cross-subsidy from private sales, which also creates an incentive to maximise the number of homes at the expense of design quality, to minimise the cost of materials and to lower the specification.
“The Government must now do what the Labour party has pledged to do, and restore the building of genuinely affordable social homes and a civic purpose to the building of new homes.”
(Source: TheyWorkForYou website Debate on new housing design, Westminster Hall, 5th September 2017).