Standards allowed to dip
Housing associations will be allowed to drop design and quality standards on a 'case-by-case' basis to help them pick up homes developers are struggling to offload.
The Housing Corporation has announced it would be willing to hand out grant - and relax its normal standards - to help associations buy more homes. Grant funded homes have to comply with the corporation's design and quality standards, as well as adhering to the Code for Sustainable Homes at level three or above. Private developers face less stringent requirements for market homes.
Andrew Wiles, director for the south west at the corporation, said the agency would be willing to hand out grant to housing associations in coming months to buy hardto- shift homes built for the open market. The corporation was also willing to relax the standards for these homes, he added. He told delegates at the Chartered Institute of Housing's south west conference: 'On a case-by-case basis, we will be willing to look at homes offered to you and on a case-by-case basis, will be looking at some flexibilities around our standards on those [homes].'
Housing associations told Inside Housing last month they were turning down homes offered by developers because they did not meet social housing standards.
Simon Dow, chief executive of Guinness Trust, said his organisation would definitely be interested in the homes on offer, but would assess their long-term viability with care. He said associations would have to learn lessons from the 'housing market package' programme which was introduced to help them capitalise on the housing market recession in the early 1990s and had seen a wholesale reduction in standards.
'A number of associations got quite a lot of property which they then had to sell on, because they were unsatisfactory homes [with] considerable long-term maintenance obligations,' he said. 'A number of associations had their fingers very badly burned.'
Dale Meredith, development director at Southern Housing Group, said his group would be 'silly' not to consider homes from house builders. 'The key issue for housing associations is to make sure that homes meet the standards we would normally expect, and that's about things like suitability, size and management issues,' he said.
'Existing property aimed for the open market is highly unlikely to have been built to Code for Sustainable Homes standards.'
Terry Fuller, chair of the affordable housing group at the Home Builders' Federation, said developers were likely to offer associations discounts for their homes. He described the move as a 'win win' situation for both sides.
A Housing Corporation spokesperson said the agency's commitment to quality 'remained paramount' and any relaxation of standards would depend on each individual case. Bids would be assessed separately, taking into account factors such as an appropriate mix of homes.