Scrapping standards could result in slums of the future
THE government is scrapping a new set of house building standards that would have applied to homes built with government funding or on public land.
Housing minister Grant Shapps announced this week that he is getting rid of them to help speed up the building process.
The RIBA Housing Group, of which I’m a member, has been campaigning for some time to have one document that covers all standards, rather than the numerous publicationsnumbering between 50-60, which cover legislation about affordable homes.
The campaign is to ensure that new affordable housing is built to a high standard in terms of environmental performance and internal space, so that they stand the test of time and cater positively for future generations.
Sadly, the concept of reducing standards, with the housing market being led by the private developer, is a retrograde step, and we will see a lowering of design quality and aspirations. The logic of this latest approach could result in cheap, inferior properties, which would become the slums of the future.
It’s so sad that we can’t plan for well-designed housing that has good space standards. Well-designed property has a positive benefit to both users and the broader environment. It is a proven fact that decent housing stock has a positive physical, social and psychological benefit to occupants. Reducing or eliminating standards will have a huge negative impact on society. It makes me so angry when we could actually embrace the situation we are in with investment in good affordable housing stock, which would also get the construction industry moving again.
RIBA President Ruth Reed said of Grant Shapps’s announcement: “This is a deeply troubling decision that will have profound implications for communities across the country. The proposed HCA standards were designed to raise the overall quality of publicly funded housing and ensure that new homes meet the most basic of lifestyle needs – reform was desperately needed.”
Rebecca Roberts-Hughes, policy officer for the Royal Institute of British Architects (Riba), believes it’s time for British volume builders to start thinking bigger and better.
In most things we welcome miniaturisation: computers, phones, cars, but not for our homes. Sadly, however, this is the situation that the British housebuying public faces.
Homes in Britain have the smallest rooms in western Europe. The average floor space is almost a quarter smaller than in Denmark – western Europe’s most spacious country – and we are becoming accustomed to living cheek-by-jowl in cramped, poky quarters.
Residents of many flats and houses across the country don’t have enough room for ironing boards, storage or even socialising, according to research last year from the Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment.
We have a positive opportunity to create simple legislation to ensure that all homes, irrespective of tenure, are designed for today’s living. Homes where we have space to live, work and play. The constant gripes that most people have include a lack of storage space, bedrooms too small to accommodate anything more than a bed, cramped living areas, and poor outside space. It is not difficult to design properties with good internal and external storage, with internal space that is practical and welcoming, and that consider environmental issues.
I fear that we will see a reduction in quality and space, with resulting social problems for future generations. I would encourage debate and dialogue to ensure that we design and build new homes fully fit for purpose. Surely, it’s not much to ask?
Ric Blenkharn is co-founder of Bramhall Blenkharn Architects, Malton. www.brable.com