The NHBC has come into justifiable criticism in the national press recently. The NHBC provides warranties for around 80% of new homes built in any given year. Last year its accounts show it spent £90 million fixing 11,000 defective new homes. What is not listed is the total number of claims the NHBC rejected because the estimated cost of remedial work was judged (by the NHBC) to be less than their ‘minimum claim value’, currently £1,550. So unless buyer’s homes need costly repairs, their warranty claims are often rejected.
The NHBC state on their website:
“Our purpose is to work with the house-building industry to raise the standards of new homes and to provide protection for homebuyers in the form of Buildmark warranty and insurance. We are an independent, non-profit distributing company limited by guarantee – neither part of government, nor a charity. Our business is run by the Board of Directors with surpluses being re-invested in the improvement and development of our products and services.”
The standard of UK new homes is at its lowest since 2009 according to the results of the NHBC’s own Customer Satisfaction Survey! So it might come as surprise to learn that in yesterday’s Guardian, Graham Ruddick reported that the NHBC has been paying around £10m-£15m every year to housebuilders in what he describes “is effectively a profit-share agreement.”
The latest data figures from the DCLG on Affordable Housing supply April 2015 to March 2016 published yesterday, show that the number of affordable homes built in England in 2015/16 has fallen to its lowest level for 24 years. In total, just 32,110 new affordable homes were added – a 52% decline on the previous twelve months (66,600).
Figures for affordable housing are split into three catagories: social rent, affordable rent and affordable home ownership/shared ownership.
The DCLG figures showed the number of new homes for ‘social rent’ fell to just 6,550 – 83% lower than the 39,500 built in 2010/11. The number of homes for private rental at ‘affordable rent’ has now fallen 41% from a peak of 40,730 in 2014/15 to 16,550 in 2015/16. The total constructed for ‘affordable home ownership’ has also dropped 21% from 15,970 to only 3,430 over the same period.Labour housing spokesman John Healey said:
“The figures showed the government was building the lowest number of social rented homes since records began. This all-time low results from Conservative ministers who have washed their hands of any responsibility to build the homes families on ordinary incomes need. We’ve seen six wasted years with the Tories in charge of housing. They have no long-term plan for housing and they’re doing too little to fix the housing crisis for millions of people who are just managing to cover their housing costs.”
Yet more funding for housebuilders! Whatever became of austerity, “there’s no money left” and “balancing the budget by 2020”? So is the country now awash with spare cash? Of course not. According to the national debt clock, the UK is borrowing another £5,170 per SECOND or £1.86m an hour! The National debt is currently £1,762,340,000,000 (1.76trn), this equates to £28,291 for every person living in the UK or £48,600 for each UK taxpayer! So I find it totally incomprehensible that another £5bn is being added, to further and unnecessarily subsidise private housebuilding under the guise of increasing the number of new homes built.We have already had the ‘The Osborne Stupidity’ – ‘Help to Buy’ fuelling house prices and housebuilders’ record profits. Now we have the ‘The May Lunacy’ ‘Help to Build’, yet more funding for housebuilders. Last week the Theresa May’s government announced two major housing initiatives; a £3bn Home Building Fund – £2bn long term funding for infrastructure and £1bn short term loan funding aimed towards enabling smaller developers enter the market. As is often the case with government announcements of supposedly “new funds” £1.2bn of the £3bn was previously announced as the Large Sites Infrastructure Fund in 2015. In addition, a new £2bn “Accelerated Construction Programme” aiming at getting new homes built more quickly on public land.
Who is the government kidding?
On 21 September 2015, the then housing minister Brandon Lewis, stated on behalf of the government on BBC that it intends to build “a million new homes by 2020”. ie by the end of this parliament. A million new homes in a shade less than 5 years, around 200,000 a year. Big statement, big promise. Everyone will remember George Osborne’s “we are the builders” being seen wherever he could, wearing a hard hat and a hi-vis jacket. So how is this going?Well, recently released figures from the Department of Local Government and Communities (DCLG) show that just 139,030 new homes were built in the year to 30 June 2016. Whilst up 6% on the previous 12 months (131,500) and 29% higher than the low recorded to March 2013 (107,820), this latest total is still 18% below the peak in the quarter to March 2007 (168,640).
Since 2006, Part L of the Building Regulations – The Conservation of Fuel and Power in England and Wales – has required mandatory air leakage testing of new buildings including homes. These regulations were further revised in 2010. But this does not mean every new home will be subject to an air leakage test to comply even under the latest 2010 Part L.
What is air leakage testing?
Air leakage testing basically checks that a new home is air tight and will not let in draughts or provide a route for heat to escape through gaps in the structure. After sealing up all required vents to windows and extractors, air is then drawn out of the home via a large fan in an external doorway, with the pressure monitored for a set period of time to produce a measurement of the amount of air that leaks back into the home being tested.
So you would think that since 2010, all new homes would be relatively air tight, free of draughts and cheap to heat as a result?
APPG Inquiry Second session: – What we suggested.
The majority of those that made submissions to this APPG inquiry into the “Quality of New Build Housing in England” were from either commercial organisations or institutions with a vested interest in or close affiliation to the house building industry. Their presentations would appear to be focused away from the actual problem – housebuilders’ poor workmanship standards and inadequate levels of customer care – with their emphasis on their own operations and/or sustainability and energy conservation. However, the committee were given presentations by what the APPG Secretariat (CIC) deemed “concerned citizens” four in the second session and one in the last session.
A Conservative Government – the gift that keeps on giving!
Champagne corks must be popping in the boardrooms of housebuilders across the country as this Conservative Government announces yet more plans to help the industry with a “Cutting Red Tape” review.Notwithstanding the unprecedented boost that the housebuilders have already received from this Government – plc housebuilders were the biggest winners from the recent Autumn Statement after George “we are the builders” Osborne announced a raft of new changes that further support the sector in the relentless headline grabbing political pressure to ramp up UK homebuilding.
In his Autumn Statement, Osborne announced a number of measures which include plans for a £7bn house building programme, a boost to the Help to Buy scheme, with Londoners a 40% loan rather than the previously-announced 20% loan and more freedom for Local Authorities to sell off land. The main benefit being from the shared ownership scheme and the extension of Help to Buy. The big seven: Barratt, Taylor Wimpey, Persimmon, Berkeley, Bellway, Redrow and Bovis will benefit the most from the moves.
Well it was about time something was done regarding the dire quality of new homes built in the UK and the total indifference shown by the housebuilders to even begin address the thousands of defective new homes handed over to their misty-eyed customers every year. Something they have all been aware of for many years. This APPG Inquiry is a start.
Whether this latest inquiry by the All Party Parliamentary Group for Excellence in the Built Environment actually forces through the changes so badly required remains to be seen. At the outset, it is only an inquiry and we have had many previously including The Barker Review of Housing Supply in 2004 and the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) ‘Home Building Consumer Survey’ of 2007. Yet as any UK new homebuyer will tell you, the quality of new homes has not improved. In the 2015 results of the HBF New Homes Customer Satisfaction Survey, some 93% of respondents had problems with their new home. Indeed the industry has done such a good job of normalising defective new homes that all of those surveyed actually expected to have some problems after they moved in.
The inquiry will look at the quality of UK new home building and the potential for improving every aspect of the product handed over to new home-owners.
Posted in New Homes, Snagging and Quality
Tagged customer care, end of year figures, help to buy, house builders, new homes, new homes ombudsman, NHBC, quality, snagging, standards
You may have missed it among all the headline-grabbing talk of increasing the minimum wage and yet more cuts to welfare, but as part of George Osborne’s summer budget announcements, this Conservative government also abolished the requirement for all new homes to be ‘zero carbon’ from April 2016.
Whilst it is reported that some housebuilders had already started work to meet the challenge, the major plc housebuilders would have probably known all along that the election of a Conservative government would at the very least, have enabled some ‘wiggle-room’ to water down or delay the requirements – if not the full scale capitulation reversal of the zero carbon policy that Osborne announced.
This pointless reversal – an appalling act of policy vandalism, will undoubtedly raise energy bills and carbon emissions well into the next century, sending out totally wrong message for the Paris climate talks. The Conservative government has cynically chosen put both house builders’ and energy providers’ profit making ahead of its deep moral responsibility to act to mitigate any possible impact on our climate in the future.
The zero-carbon commitment begun in 2006 and supported through successive governments has now been re interpreted as unnecessary ‘red tape’, allegedly holding back new house building projects, productivity and even the general UK economy.
Bovis homes’ website proudly (if somewhat unbelievably) claims:
“We build some of the best new homes in the UK.
We pride ourselves on being one of the country’s leading housebuilders and have established an enviable reputation for the quality of our build and design, high specification and excellent customer service.”
Well they would say that – but it can it be justified?
The truth was confirmed last Friday when the NHBC announced the 2015 winners of its Pride in the Job competition. “The NHBC Pride in the Job is the only UK-wide competition dedicated to recognising site managers who achieve the highest standards in house-building.”
Bovis site managers failed to win a single NHBC Quality Award!
For the first time in eight years, Bovis became the only large national plc housebuilder not employ a single site manager worthy of an NHBC Quality Award. Out of an average 97 “active sites” in 2014, not one of their site managers stood out above the crowd. Not one was able to demonstrate he cared about the quality of the homes built on his site. Not one possessed the “wide range of site management skills from technical knowledge and consistency in the build process to leadership and organisational skills, and achieving the highest possible standards and best practice in house building” that the NHBC judges were looking for.
No one cares at Bovis! They cannot even be botherd to set up a sprinkler to water new turf!