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“Theresa May speaks out against construction of ‘tiny’ houses, calling for new design standards”
Theresa May is calling for new design standards for house builders to ensure future owners and tenants are not forced to live in “tiny” homes with inadequate storage space.
In her latest move to secure a political legacy, the prime minister will hail figures showing that by the autumn, a million new homes will have been added in under five years.
But her comments come as a parliamentary report warns that the government’s target of delivering 300,000 new homes a year is “way off track” because of problems at the heart of the planning system.
The cross-party House of Commons Public Accounts Committee said that “much more needs to be done” to scale up house building.
The Ministry of Housing has been “reluctant to take decisive action” to deal with councils which fail to produce the up-to-date local plans which are needed to drive delivery, said the committee in a report.
And local authorities have found it difficult to secure sufficient contributions from private developers to help with the cost of the infrastructure needed to support housing developments.
Committee chair Meg Hillier, said: “Progress against the government’s annual new house building target is way off track and currently shows scant chance of being achieved.
“The government has set itself the highly ambitious target of building 300,000 homes a year by the mid 2020s – levels not seen since World War Two – even though there is no clear rationale for this figure and the ministry themselves say only 265,000 new homes a year are needed.
“Government needs to get a grip and set out a clear plan if it is not to jeopardise these ambitions.”
In a speech to the Chartered Institute of Housing conference in Manchester on Wednesday, Ms May will say that the drive to build more homes must not lead to the quality of new housing being compromised.
Tenants and buyers are currently facing a “postcode lottery”, with many councils still not applying space standards introduced by the government in 2015 as a condition of planning permission, she will say.
In a clear message to her successor as prime minister, she will call for the creation a new system of universal mandatory regulation.
“I cannot defend a system in which owners and tenants are forced to accept tiny homes with inadequate storage, where developers feel the need to fill show homes with deceptively small furniture, and where the lack of universal standards encourages a race to the bottom,” she is expected to say.
Ms May will point to figures showing that since she entered No 10 in 2016, the number of extra homes being created was up by 12 per cent in Manchester, 43 per cent in Nottingham and 80 per cent in Birmingham.
Last year, she will say, more additional homes were delivered than in all but one of the previous 31 years while the number of affordable housing starts this year has risen to almost 54,000.
But she will warn against complacency: “The housing shortage in this country began not because of a blip lasting one year or one parliament, but because not enough homes were built over many decades.
“The very worst thing we could do would be to make the same mistake again.”
Ms May will also confirm plans to end so-called “no-fault” evictions, with a consultation to be published shortly, and set out a timetable for action on social housing including improved rights for tenants.
The PM is pushing for higher house building standards (AFP/Getty)
Polly Neate, the chief executive of homelessness charity Shelter, said Ms May’s commitment to improving quality in the housing market was “to be applauded” but added: “The huge numbers of people in this country who are at the sharp end of the current housing emergency will never be able to afford those new houses.
“What this country needs – and what it wants – is a commitment from the top, from any prime minister, to a renewal of social housing. We need 3.1 million homes in the next 20 years to provide affordable and stable homes for generations to come.”
Local Government Association housing spokesman Martin Tett denied the planning system was a “barrier to housebuilding”, pointing to statistics showing councils approve nine in 10 applications but hundreds of thousands of homes given planning permission are yet to be built.
Cllr Tett said councils needed freedom to build more social homes themselves.
“The last time the country built more than 300,000 homes a year was 1977-78, when councils built 44 per cent of them,” he said.
“Latest figures show councils were only able to build 2,000 homes last year – the highest level since 1992 – but need to be able to do so much more. To help end the housing crisis, we need to kick-start a genuine renaissance in council house building.”
Responding to the PAC report, housing minister Kit Malthouse said:“This government is determined to restore the dream of home ownership for a new generation by delivering 300,000 homes a year by the mid-2020s.
“We’re committed to building more, better and faster, including £44bn of funding and guarantees to support more homes, reforming the planning system to free up more land, and removing the cap on how much councils can borrow to build.
“We’re making real progress, last year delivering more new homes than in all but one of the last 31 years.”