Friday, 06 March 2015

Idea will feature in ‘radical’ but delayed regulatory overhaul

Government to propose minimum space standard

Proposals for a controversial space standard in new homes will form part of an overhaul of house building regulations.

In a win for the Liberal Democrats, which have been pushing for the introduction of a new minimum space standard in housing, Inside Housing understands the Communities and Local Government department is set to include the idea as part of a sector-wide consultation to be published next week.

The consultation is expected to strip out overlapping regulation and meet the government’s aim of ‘significantly rationalising’ building standards in key areas such as space, energy, security, and accessibility in order to make development simpler and cheaper.

However, the proposal of a new space standard will be contentious and opposed by development bodies, such as the Home Builders Federation, which argues it will increase costs.

London is the only place in the UK with legal minimum space standards for both social and private housing. Elsewhere, minimum standards apply only to social housing.

The proposal caused splits in a 16-body, government-commissioned expert panel, which reported its recommendations to the CLG along with a four-person challenge panel at the end of April. It has since led to wrangling between departments, and been pushed for by Lib Dem communities minister Don Foster with the backing of the architecture lobby.

The publication of the consultation has been pushed back twice as ministers have struggled to agree the content.

Sources said the cabinet office - which is keen to reduce the cost burden on developers to boost house building as part of a Whitehall ‘red tape challenge’ - was disappointed with the outcome of the exercise and had wanted it to be more ‘radical’.

At the heart of the divisions have been tensions over whether building standards should be nationally set and the resulting impact of the changes on the principle of localism.

House builders argue locally set standards will increase costs and red tape.

The story so far

26 October 2012
Inside Housing reveals the government is to launch a review of building standards

31 October 2012
the government names expert and challenge panels to oversee the review

26 April 2013
Inside Housing reveals sector splits over how to overhaul building standards

April 2013
panel submits report to the CLG

Readers' comments (20)

  • Will FTBs be either willing or even able to pay extra for the extra space?

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  • "Elsewhere minimum standards apply only to social housing"!

    Yet LAs for years have been telling SRS tenants with growing families that their living room is to be considered a bedroom - as well as any other room - subject only to minimum size of that other room.

    So potentially - with 4 kids under age 10 - in a 1 bed flat - a tenant can be told to sleep 2 kids in lounge and 2 others in kitchen (subject to minimum room sizes).

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  • It is about time they increased room sizes (although I hope there is some flexibility on brown field sites, which might have problematic layouts).

    I also think they need to ensure new houses are easy to maintain. New houses are a pain, try localting a leaking pipe in a new build. How can you access pipework under interlocking floorboards?

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  • CL - I guess new build houses are a bit like new cars (latter having all engine ancillaries attached prior to installing the engine - with no thought about later maintenance).

    Another reason to steer away from new build - as well as the extra cost per square foot of interior space due to new build premium.

    Anecdotal evidence also implies NHBRC "guarantee" is not all it is cracked up to be.

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  • i wonder is it not more likely they will even down rather than improve anything. i doubt this will be done to benefit buyers rather than builders.
    makes sense to have one standard but this lot would have us plebs living in portaloos

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  • We work extensively across both the private and public sectors and specialise in housing. I have always found it ridiculous that the social housing is generally better spec'd and larger than the private for sale elements except at the executive, 'plush' end of the market. It's about time we levelled the playing field for regular renters and buyers. I also hope there is some requirement for storage as this is something that is generally left out by private developers.

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  • A more innovative solution could be to have mobile internal walls - such as internal office spaces - enabling spaces to be changed as family needs develop over time - thereby enabling one to stay in same home for longer.

    Initially a childless couple occupy a home with say one massive bedroom - but as their family grows later - they box it off to create more bedrooms.

    I recall one UK social landlord has already adopted this approach.

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  • Daniel Sweeney

    Realist, The 'situationalists' in France during the 60's were arguing for moveable homes as well! My first reaction was to scoff at the idea, however I think there may be more than a glimmer of sense in it. I suppose it would require a link between floor space and average family size (+ to allow for 'irregular families'). Once we get over the initial reaction it becomes an engineering problem, and that means there is a solution to the issues. It works with office space, so theres no reason why it cant be done in residential properties. Routing power and pipes under floor or overhead.....It would need to done from the design stage rather than as an afterthought as 'retro fitting' would be a right pain.

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  • "Elsewhere, minimum standards apply only to social housing."
    Do they?
    I don't of anything where they do...
    CODE has a minimum outdoor space.
    However, a developer can still build a 2 bed plus box room and call it a 3 bed.

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  • true AJM i have visited sites where a three bed and five bed had same footprint !!

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