The quality of new-build homes in the UK is often criticised and in the run up to this summer's snap General Election the Conservative Party have stated that they will improve the quality of new houses.
The Conservative Party are on target to regain power in the election and their manifesto which was published yesterday states: “We have not built enough homes in this country for generations, and buying or renting a home has become increasingly unaffordable. If we do not put this right, we will be unable to extend the promise of a decent home, let alone home ownership, to the millions who deserve it.”
The manifesto goes on to say that the Conservatives will fix the dysfunctional housing market so that housing is more affordable and people have the security they need to plan for the future. The key to this is to build enough homes to meet demand. That will slow the rise in housing costs so more ordinary, working families can afford to buy a home and bring the cost of renting down. This will ensure that more private capital is invested in more productive investment, helping the UK economy to grow faster and more securely in future years.
Continuing the manifesto states: “We will meet our 2015 commitment to deliver a million homes by the end of 2020 and we will deliver half a million more by the end of 2022. We will deliver the reforms proposed in our Housing White Paper to free up more land for new homes in the right places, speed up build-out by encouraging modern methods of construction and give councils powers to intervene where developers do not act on their planning permissions; and we will diversify who builds homes in this country
“More homes will not mean poor quality homes. For too long, careless developers, high land costs and poor planning have conspired to produce housing developments that do not enhance the lives of those living there. We have not provided the infrastructure, parks, quality of space and design that turns housing into community and makes communities prosperous and sustainable. The result is felt by many ordinary, working families. Too often, those renting or buying a home on a modest income have to tolerate substandard developments -some only a few years old -and are denied a decent place in which to live, where they can put down roots and raise children. For a country boasting the finest architects and planners in the world, this is unacceptable.”
The manifesto also states that better houses will be built, to match the quality of those inherited from previous generations. That means supporting high-quality, high-density housing like mansion blocks, mews houses and terraced streets. It means maintaining the existing strong protections on designated land like the Green Belt, National Parks and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty. The party pledges to rebalance housing growth across the country, in line with its modern industrial strategy. This means government building 160,000 houses on its own land. It means supporting specialist housing where it is needed, like multigenerational homes and housing for older people, including by helping housing associations increase their specialist housing stock.
The manifesto goes on to say: “We will never achieve the numbers of new houses we require without the active participation of social and municipal housing providers. This must not be done at the expense of high standards, however: councils have been amongst the worst offenders in failing to build sustainable, integrated communities. In some instances, they have built for political gain rather than for social purpose. So we will help councils to build, but only those councils who will build high-quality, sustainable and integrated communities.
“We will enter into new Council Housing Deals with ambitious, pro-development, local authorities to help them build more social housing. We will work with them to improve their capability and capacity to develop more good homes, as well as providing them with significant low-cost capital funding. In doing so, we will build new fixed-term social houses, which will be sold privately after ten to fifteen years with an automatic Right to Buy for tenants, the proceeds of which will be recycled into further homes. We will reform Compulsory Purchase Orders to make them easier and less expensive for councils to use and to make it easier to determine the true market value of sites.
“We will also give greater flexibility to housing associations to increase their housing stock, building on their considerable track record in recent years. And we will work with private and public sector house builders to capture the increase in land value created when they build to reinvest in local infrastructure, essential services and further housing, making it both easier and more certain that public sector landowners, and communities themselves, benefit from the increase in land value from urban regeneration and development. And we will continue our £2.5 billion flood defence programme that will put in place protection for 300,000 existing homes by 2021.
“These ambitious policies will mean more and better homes, welcomed by existing communities because they add, rather than subtract, from what is already there. This is the sustainable development we need to see happen in every village, town and city across our country. These policies will take time, and meanwhile we will continue to support those struggling to buy or rent a home, including those living in a home owned by a housing association.”
One disappointing area in the manifesto is that it lacks detail on how the Conservatives intend to improve building standards and there is no mention of the popular UK 'Help to Buy scheme' that the UK Labour Party has pledged to continue.