Housing minister: New homes ‘fall short’ on quality
Alok Sharma: ‘We can build better homes’ (Flickr.com)
Housing minister Alok Sharma has admitted that too many new homes “fall short” on quality and design.
He was speaking in a debate at Westminster Hall, led by the chair of the all-party parliamentary group (APPG) on quality in the built environment, Conservative MP for Bury St Edmunds Jo Churchill.
She had begun the session by stressing “the fact that there is so little consumer protection attached to the purchase of new homes needs addressing”.
Churchill referenced a recent report by the APPG which highlighted new home customer dissatisfaction, with 25% of buyers reporting 16 faults or more.
“While I appreciate that the House Builders Federation is looking into a voluntary code, there are problems with the industry policing itself. If there were any real intent, it would not have let the situation deteriorate as it has done, and for so long.”
Sharma said housebuilders needed “to ensure that they [new homes] are of good quality, well designed and respond positively to their local context”.
He added: “We believe that we can build not only more homes, but better homes. There are some great examples of housebuilders who are making quality and design a priority, but too many new homes still fall short.”
Churchill, who has been working with the Chartered Institute of Building on addressing quality concerns in the construction industry, criticised the lack of “transparency” in the housebuilding sector.
“While I appreciate that the House Builders Federation is looking into a voluntary code, there are problems with the industry policing itself,” she said. “If there were any real intent, it would not have let the situation deteriorate as it has done, and for so long.”
Churchill added that it was unacceptable that a small number of very profitable companies were responsible for over half of all housebuilding.
“For an industry that has overseen a substantial rise in profitability over recent years to oversee an equal decline in customer satisfaction ratings and a fall-off in skills training, for which it sees itself as only partially responsible, is unacceptable,” she said.
“Just 10 companies build half of new private homes. It used to be the case that 60% of new homes were built by small and medium-sized enterprises, often local, which had a vested interest in the build quality and were more conscious of the vernacular and the local environment – but currently, that figure is less than 30%.
“There is a feeling that large housebuilders are happy to trouser the profit and move on, and are not interested in the long-term reputation of their product. We might regularly replace our white goods; our homes we do not. They should be right the first time.”