New government-mandated housing standard requirements have come into force, as of March 27th 2015. The new rules are part of a general drive to simplify and streamline requirements for the builders of new homes, and in general to stimulate and encourage the building of new houses across Britain.
This is where the plan came from, what it means for you, and what has changed and improved when compared with the old housing standard requirements.
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Why New Housing Standard Requirements? Why Now?
The current administration carried out the Housing Standards Review with the specific intention of simplifying regulations around new homes. There have been two Housing Standards Review Consultations, the first being general and the second being technical. They are linked with the Affordable Homes Programme 2015-18, and the majority of proposals from the Housing Standards Review were to come into force before the end of the current parliament.
The motivation behind them is to encourage new building of affordable housing by removing some of the most specific or restrictive old housing standard requirements, while still maintaining the same level of quality. It has also been brought in to address a perceived 'pick and mix' attitude from local authorities towards the existing housing standards.
What Does This Mean For Developers?
Hopefully, as a developer, this will mean a less arbitrary and more predictable process for deciding which housing standards you will have to meet. With less duplication and no chance for contradictory rules, the process should be smoother and more efficient. In practice, the new system will include optional building regulations, which will apply but only where a council has decided that it is correct to apply them.
With housing standards entirely under governmental control, with the accompanying cost-benefit analysis, meeting housing standards should be less expensive and confusing than negotiating the standards and ideals of multiple different interested parties. This should not mean that housing standards are less rigorous, merely that the more nonsensical and over-specific requirements that may have caused you to scratch your head in the past have generally been trimmed.
New, more rigorous but optional regulations around access, water efficiency and the space standard will be applied when there is a relevant local plan policy due to local need. Also, the Code For Sustainable Homes may not be a requirement of planning conditions any more.
If councils do not manage to give the new standards sufficient weight, Eric Pickles has given a written statement indicating that the government will consider implementing legislation.
For the first 6 months under the new scheme, until 1st October, the previously-existing standards could continue to be applied based on existing plans, rather than the optional new requirements. This applies to the themes or standards of water, space, security and access.