The former Prime Minister Theresa May announced in June 2019 several aims concerning the government’s plan for affordable homes. As part of these plans, May outlined a rise of new design standards to ensure the production of high-quality homes for the long-term. Bundled with guarantees for improved tenant’s rights, May’s new standards hoped to balance an increase in house building with better standards.
Here, we list what these standards entailed and whether they will likely survive the transition to a Boris government.
What Did Theresa May Propose?
At the Chartered Institute of Housing conference, May set out a Social Housing Green Paper agenda. Therein, she responded to the government building just one million homes in five years, well short of its annual target of 300,000 per year. However, recent regional rises, such as an increase of housing in Birmingham by 80%, led to her being optimistic. May stated that she had “a government with a bold vision for housing and a willingness to act on it”, before expressing her discontent with the quality of housing available for owners and tenants across the UK.
May stated that she could not “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”. Enacting on those statements, May declared there will be new regulations for developers to build better quality housing.
As part of these regulations, local authorities will need to be stricter in regards to Nationally Described Space Standards during planning permission processes. Many local authorities do not use these standards as they are not mandatory, leading to what the ex-Prime Minister called “a postcode lottery” for tenants and buyers. These mandatory regulations would be universal while providing clear, nationwide standards to facilitate the building of adequate homes.
For developers, this means future builds will, at some point, need to take the Nationally Described Space Standards more seriously.
The former PM also expressed interest in abolishing “no-fault” evictions, giving tenants more power and autonomy over living arrangements.
Will These Changes to Standards Survive A Boris Johnson Government?
Housing reform on the level the government previously indicated with May appears to be low on the current Prime Minister’s list. Despite saying that it is “a disgraceful fact that we now have lower rates of owner-occupation – for under-40s – than the French or the Germans”, Boris Johnson appears to be more focused on Brexit than other domestic concerns.
The Prime Minister did mention housing in his first speech, claiming he wished to “[give] millions of young people the chance to own their own home”, but this was following his discussions on uniting the country, having safer streets, prioritising education and financing better road and rail transport networks.
However, the Prime Minister’s chief of staff, Sir Edward Lister, could mean the rise in the good-quality homes May aspired to. Lister has wide-reaching experience in housing issues, previously working as chairman for Homes England, who produced significantly more homes after his appointment in 2016.
So, even though the government’s June proposals may not become reality, they do signify a future where tenants have more power and homes need to be of a better standard.
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