News | Published June 28 2019

Theresa May calls for mandatory design standards

Prime Minister Theresa May has labelled the number of “tiny homes” with minimal storage on the housing market “indefensible” as she seeks an overhaul of compulsory standards in design.

May believes that the lack of regulation on internal space is encouraging building firms to construct smaller homes, which she describes as a “race to the bottom” among builders.

The prime minister also believes that integrating these design conditions into the planning system for the first time would go a long way toward ending the so-called “postcode lottery”.

May is due to address the Chartered Institute of Housing in Manchester to outline these concerns, particularly with regard to different housing standards in different regions.

The government has set a target of building 300,000 new homes per year by the mid 2020s but May is concerned that meeting the quota will compromise the quality of the homes built.

According to the BBC, she will say in Manchester: “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.”

A government guideline was most recently updated in 2016, outlining the minimum size for bedrooms and floor space for storage, as well as floor to ceiling heights for any new housing builds in England.

However, these requirements are non-compulsory and some councils have not integrated them into their housing plans.

Although MPs have been clear in stating that some councils’ policies are outdated, the Public Accounts Committee believes ministers have held back on taking tangible action because of concerns regarding localism.

MPs are also calling for compensation for residents affected by design issues.

The Commons Public Accounts Committee has also published a report outlining its concerns about office and commercial spaces being converted into residential properties. The government’s own policy on allowing such conversions without planning permission is currently under review.

Meanwhile, the Commons Public Accounts Committee has stressed the need for clarity on which standards of quality will be acceptable for any new housing.

The Local Government Association, a body representing over 300 councils across England and Wales, also feel that the government must be clearer on the issue so councils, developers and buyers are better informed.

Martin Tett, the association’s housing spokesman, said: "High-quality homes for affordable and social rent are desperately needed across the country.

”These standards should future-proof all new homes, ensuring they are accessible for all ages and all markets, meet the housing needs of our ageing population and are environmentally sustainable.”

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Authored by

Scott Challinor
Business Editor
June 28 2019

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