Welcome to ‘rabbit hutch’ Britain as Government gives the green ight to even smaller micro homes
“Ridiculous” – “immoral” – “dog kennels” – “shoe boxes” – “rabbit hutches” These are just some of the words local residents have used to describe Britain’s micro homes – Government-endorsed “favelas in the sky.”
It would appear the Government is intent on cramming an ever increasing number of ‘hard working British people’ into ever smaller areas and living spaces. Evidence of this provided by the Housing White Paper, with its proposal to review the guidance on minimum sizes for new homes, despite the “nationally described space standard” only being in force since October 2015.
“The Government proposes to amend the National Planning Policy Framework to make it clear that plans and individual development proposals should:
- make efficient use of land and avoid building homes at low densities where there is a shortage of land for meeting identified housing requirements;
- address the particular scope for higher-density housing in urban locations”
We also want to make sure the standards do not rule out new approaches to meeting demand, building on the high quality compact living model of developers such as Pocket Homes ”
Caught in a trap – Leasehold new houses
Given the information, no new homebuyer would ever choose to buy a house with a leasehold title. Perhaps this is why some housebuilders hide this extremely important information from new homebuyers. Even if they do think to ask about the property title, it’s no good saying “People are scared of change because it’s something new. But it’s virtually freehold.” As a Persimmon sales advisor told a reporter from The Guardian.
Is it Freehold? New homebuyers are getting caught out by newly-built leasehold houses.
Justin Madders MP for Ellesmere Port and Neston, is calling for a ban on leasehold new houses:
“It is clear this system is being abused to drive huge profits at ordinary homeowners’ expense. There is no need for there to be leasehold properties, particularly those on an estate where the properties are mainly detached houses.
“They need to be banned – it may be a convenient way for developers to get extra profit from their building work, but once they get in the hands of these private equity companies the profit motive overrides any considerations that there are real people living in their homes, who are being asked to stump up eye-watering sums.”
As Patrick Collinson reported in The Guardian on Saturday 29 October 2016, a new house built by Taylor Wimpey in Ellesmere Port was sold for £155,000 on a 999-year lease in 2009. Seven years later, the owner was quoted £32,000 to buy the freehold from E&J estates who had bought the freeholds from Taylor Wimpey. Another buyer was quoted up to £40,000 by E&J estates for the freehold of their 2011, 4-bedroom £122,000 house and despite a long lease, another new homebuyer in Manchester is was forced to pay £38,000 to buy the freehold on their recently built home.
Escalating ground rent is another issue. Taylor Wimpey set the ground rent at £295 a year on the Ellesmere Port development, with the contract stating that ground rent will double every ten years!
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?
Bodge the builder – can they fix it?
Well probably yes, but they will move heaven and earth to avoid doing so. It is at this time of year that I like to produce a light-hearted article, poking fun at the general house building industry. However the increasing poor quality of new homes and the lack of any discernible after sales service mean that most new home buyers have experiences that are as far from funny as you can get.
Nevertheless, this year I am proud to announce the inaugural winners of the “BODGERS” awards. These are the awards for the very worse in everything housebuilding that I have come across over the last twelve months.
The All Party Parliamentary Group for “Excellence in the Built Environment” was formed in July 2010. The group is chaired by Oliver Colvile MP, with Nick Raynsford and the Earl of Lytton acting as vice-chairmen. The latest APPG Inquiry is looking at the Quality of New Build Housing in England and “examining the potential for improving every aspect of the product handed over to new home-owners.” (For details of the full committee see end of this article)
Thanks to successful lobbying by the HBF, it is a case of Carry On Regardless as housebuilders dodge yet another bullet, this time it is building larger ‘fit for purpose’ new homes.
As with most things that effect housebuilders, the new National Space Standards for new homes have been watered-down to such an extent that it is doubtful that any of the major housebuilders will ever be required (or forced) to design new homes that adhere to the new space standards. Not that this matters as the space standards have been set so low, that the size of the average new homes currently being built all but comply anyway!
The average family home shrinks two square metres in ten years.
Britain’s incredible shrinking new homes
Britain’s tiny ‘rabbit-hutch’ new homes are bad for your health
Unlike other aspects of the Housing Standards Review, the space standard has not been incorporated into the Building Regulations. Establishing compliance and any enforcement action will rest with the local planning authority.
The Building Research Establishment (BRE) is introducing a national quality mark for new housing that it claims should give home buyers and renters a clear indication of the quality and performance of a new home.
The BRE says it is a “world leading building science centre that generates new knowledge through research. This is used to create products, tools and standards that drive positive change across the built environment.” The BRE claim its ownership structure enables the BRE to be “held as a national asset on behalf of the construction industry and its clients, independent of specific commercial interests.” Allegedly protecting the “impartiality and objectivity of the BRE Group in providing research and guidance.” The BRE Trust is a registered company limited by guarantee and also registered as a charity in England.
A number of stakeholders are currently working with BRE on the development of their Home Quality Mark from its beta testing stage. Of the housebuilders, only Galliford – with its perennial ‘four-star’ HBF-rated Linden subsidiary, ‘minnow’ Cala, and Kier are currently involved at present.
CALA Homes, plan to trial the Mark. Cala Chief Executive Alan Brown said: “Independent benchmarking of new homes is hugely important. For CALA, it provides third party recognition of our commitment to consistently build high quality, sustainable homes. For homeowners, it offers a simple and reliable measure of the energy performance of the property they are buying. We look forward to working with BRE on the new Home Quality Mark.”
The BRE say “the new national quality mark will transform the way consumers choose the homes they buy and rent and will provide house builders with a valuable independent quality mark they can use to highlight the innovative features of their homes and differentiate themselves in the marketplace at a time of rapid growth.”
New homes – all sugar and spice and all things nice? That’s what the house builders would have you believe. Slugs and snails and snagging list tales would be closer to the truth!
Included with last weekends Mail on Sunday was a property paper called ‘The Location’ described as – “44 pages of property inspiration.” Within it’s covers were some of the most outrageous superlatives I have ever seen used by house builders and their selling agents to describe not only the new homes being advertised, but also the location of the developments.
Not once were the adjectives used to describe the homes and developments backed up with any tangible statement of explanation. Here is another translation of what the builders say and what it really means.
Of the homes they were described as:
“Bespoke” Implying that they are being built to a buyer’s own specific requirements rather than in all probability, a one-off design forced by the planning process.
“Contemporary” This just means “of the same age; present-day” yet it is frequently used to imply state-of-the-art features, designs or specifications.
“Exclusive” This commonly used to imply the development or properties are one of kind – hardly the case with most new homes.
“Uncompromised quality” Really? How is this substantiated? So there we have it, this development does not “compromise” on quality, implying or more usefully, confirming that others do.
For many, buying the show home may seem a great idea. But anyone considering buying an ex show home should consider the many disadvantages as well as the perceived advantages.
The first thing to be wary of is to not getting taken in by the furnishings and the techniques the housebuilder has used. In recent times, many people have become obsessed with lifestyles and developers are using this to their advantage so potential show home buyers should be sceptical when viewing.
The most critical issue to buyers is nearly always price. A show home can, and usually does cost, more than the same house type on the development, This is because all the little extras that are in the show home are added to the price. Remember house builders never give bargains! The price will have been very carefully considered to get the maximum amount that can be realistically achieved, in the short time the sales staff may be on the development. You should be prepared to negotiate with the builder, as you will have not been able to choose your kitchen and other options and the home will be used to some extent.