House builders kick back against proposed minimum space standards

Unsurprisingly the house building industry has already declared its opposition to the proposed minimum space standard for all new homes included in the Government’s consultation on streamlining housing standards by “Inviting views on minimum space and access standards that would allow councils to seek bigger homes to meet local needs, including those of older and disabled people”.

barratt homeBoth the Royal Institute of British Architects and the National Housing Federation have supported the idea for a minimum space standard, whilst house builders claimed that this would result in fewer homes being built and even higher prices.

Ashley Lane, group partnerships director at Persimmon, said…. “We are opposed to space standards. We believe demand should be market driven. The implication of a space standard is it would enlarge homes, so require more land. It would lead to fewer homes per area – particularly on publicly funded land.” 

There is a need to “enlarge homes” as new homes in the UK are the smallest in Western Europe often so small and dark they can actually be detrimental to occupant’s health. People are buying what is available, not necessarily what they would prefer.

John Slaughter, director of external affairs at the Home Builders Federation, said unsurprisingly that he welcomed the Government’s aim to tackle red tape, but believes….. “Minimum space standards, which run counter to these efforts, would be very damaging. Introducing minimum sizes will make homes more expensive and remove choice for consumers, especially those struggling to afford a home, and it would have an adverse effect on overall housing supply at a critical time.”

So whilst reducing regulatory red tape for house builders is good, forcing them to build larger homes is bad and will remove choice? The choice now is between small and very small. Minimum space standards would improve choice. Limiting the supply of new homes by land banking is the main contributor to higher prices. Bigger homes would be more expensive to build due to increased land and build costs but not so high as to have a noticeably adverse effect on the market. It is far more likely to adversely affect the house builder’s profit margins, as new home prices would have to compete with the general market at the time.

It is surprising that the house building industry didn’t also suggest that minimum space standards would result in more pressure on the green belt and the countryside. Especially in the light of recent CPRE statements regarding the increase of planning approval on Green Belt land. Perhaps they didn’t want to draw attention to this!

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