Implementation of Housing Standards and other publications in advance of dissolution of Parliament
In advance of the dissolution of Parliament later today, the Government has published a raft of documents, including more information on new Housing Standards.
NB: This note is a more thorough version of the one published yesterday with two faulty weblinks corrected, more information on local application of higher housing standards and also a summary of the Government’s announcement on the design exemplars to be used as part of the Starter Home initiative.
Amendments to the Building Act 1984
The Deregulation Act 2015 has now received Royal Assent and the Government has advised building control bodies of the relevant changes to Building Regulations resulting from the Building Regulations &c. (Amendment) Regulations 2015.
The changes are summarised in a DCLG circular that has been sent to all building control bodied, council chief executives and other stakeholders. This is available to read here
Housing Standards Implementation
The Housing Standards Review which began in 2013 was completed earlier this year. The Government has now published final details of its proposed way forward. The Housing Standards Review was intended as a ‘tidying up’ exercise to deal with ‘complex, overlapping or contradictory housing standards’.
The measures resulting from the Housing Standards Review are estimated by the government’s Impact Assessment to reduce costs to businesses by £114.3m per year.
All updated approved documents (G, H, M and Q) come into effect on 1st October 2015.
The Housing Standards Review Impact Assessment can be found here
Updates to National Planning Practice Guidance relating to the route by which local authorities can impose optional higher standards on space, water and access is here
The new nationally described space standard has not been incorporated into Building Regulations. Instead the standard may be imposed by local planning authorities as a planning condition.
As well as the introduction of a minimum gross internal floor area and built-in storage area dependent on number of bedrooms, the standard will insist that at least one bedroom in a two-bedroom home is a double (or twin) room. Minimum room sizes also apply as well as a minimum floor to ceiling height of 2.3m for at least 75% of the gross internal area.
In order to impose an internal space standard, LPAs are required to provide justification on the basis of:
Need, using evidence from homes currently being built in the area
Viability, as part of a plan’s viability assessment
Timing, to allow a reasonable transition period to ensure that this can be factored into land acquisitions
Because this standard will not be incorporated into Building Regulations, responsibility for compliance, and subsequent enforcement, would rest with the local planning authority. The new section of the NPPG states that ‘Building control bodies may choose to provide checking of the space standard in development proposals as an additional service alongside carrying out their building control function.’
Guidance for authorities has been published in the form of an addition to the NPPG. For more information click here. The full technical standards for the national space standard are available to view here. Guidance for local authorities on how to apply optional higher standards is here
Minimum water efficiency standards were introduced into Building Regulations in 2010 and currently require that new homes are designed so that calculated water use is not more than 125 litres/person/day. This minimum standard is to be retained with an optional tighter standard available locally ‘where there is a clear local need’. This would be to Code Level 3/4 standard. Higher standards equivalent to Code Level 5 or 6 will not be acceptable because of the prohibitive costs of incorporating rainwater harvesting or greywater measures.
The new optional local standard of 110 litres/person/day will be introduced from 1st October 2015. A local authority is expected to establish a clear need for the higher standard using:
Existing sources of evidence
Consultations with the local water and sewerage company, the Environment Agency and catchment partnerships
Consideration of the impact on viability and housing supply
Research by EC Harris to inform the Housing Standards Review found that 12% of authorities already have a local water standard.
Updated Approved Document G is available here. Guidance for local authorities on the evidence base required to introduce the higher standard is here.
A new mandatory security requirement (Part Q) has been introduced for new dwellings. The new standard intends to introduce a level of consistency across different areas and consolidate around cost effective measures to reduce the incidence of burglary
The net annual cost to house builders as a result of this new requirement is estimated by government to be just under £11m.
The technical details of the new requirements can be found in Approved Document Q here
The new 2015 regulations substantially change Approved Document M to allow for new optional access requirements to be available locally. Existing standards are to be consolidated with Lifetime Home Standard being replaced by ‘Category 2 – Accessible and Adaptable Housing’ and Wheelchair Housing Standards to be replaced by ‘Category 3 – Wheelchair User Dwellings in Part M (Access to and use of buildings)’.
According to the NPPG, to apply the new higher standard, local planning authorities should take into account:
The likely future need for housing for older and disabled people
Size, location, type and quality of dwellings needed to meet specifically evidenced needs
For more on the local adoption of the higher standard and the relevant evidence requirements, the new section of the NPPG can be read here.
A survey by EC Harris estimates that ‘42% of local authorities have a policy requiring compliance of all or some of new housing development with the Lifetime Home Standards’.
All changes relating to water, access, security and space detailed above will be implemented on 1st October 2015.
Allowable Solutions: impact assessment of enabling power
The Infrastructure Act 2015 includes an enabling power for the introduction of Allowable Solutions which make it possible to meet Zero Carbon standards for new homes with measures in addition to the fabric efficiency of new homes. Last year, recognising that it is not always technically feasible or cost effective to meet full Zero Carbon standard the Government announced that it would pursue a minimum of Code 4 on new homes with Allowable Solutions to provide funds for off-site abatement. The impact assessment, now published estimates that having insisted on on-site abatement in all cases (an “all on-site” approach) would have added an equivalent annual net cost to house builders of more than £1bn.
The impact assessment considers a range of options for the administration of Allowable Solutions schemes.
Forthcoming work by the Department for Communities and Local Government will include further analysis and evidence gathering followed by a formal consultation with a view to putting forward final proposals and an impact assessment in advance of implementation in 2016.
The impact assessment for the enabling power can be read here
Zero Carbon small sites exemption
In its response to the consultation on Zero Carbon: Small Sites Exemption, the Government has confirmed that it will proceed with the approach proposed in the consultation first published on 18th November.
The Zero Carbon exemption will be applicable based on site size rather than company size and exempt developments from the Allowable Solutions element of the Zero Carbon standard meaning that the fabric efficiency of all homes will meet the same Zero Carbon standard. The threshold for the exemption will be set at 10 units or fewer and with a maximum size of 1000 square metres. All aspects of the exemption will be reviewed after three years. HBF’s submission argued that the dual threshold of 10 units and 1000 square metres was unnecessary.
To read a summary of the position adopted by government, click here
House builder deregulation
At the Spending Review 2010, the Government committed to reducing the regulatory burden on house builders over the course of the 2010-15 parliament. The Government’s final report has now been published. According to calculations made by the Department for Communities and Local Government, the net reduction in regulatory burdens on house builders is £24.5 million. This is the sum of £195.7m worth of deregulation (£92.6m of which is derived from the abolition of Home Information Packs) and £171.2m worth of new regulation (£158.2m of which was derived from changes to Part L in Building Regulations).
The Starter Home initiative was announced by the Prime Minister last month. The initiative, intended to provide 100,000 Starter Homes on under-used commercial and industrial land at a 20% discount to young first-time buyers. At the time of the announcement, ministers stated that in conjunction with the new Design Advisory Panel, the Department for Communities and Local Government would shortly publish a set of design exemplars for Starter Homes. This has now been published.
Having previously inferred that over time the Government’s design templates would be expected to become the default option for Starter Home schemes, the ministerial foreword now accepts that the principles should be based on good design more generally. Elsewhere the document also references Building for Life 12 as being valuable in guiding the development of well-designed homes. More on this announcement can be found here.
Housing Guarantee Scheme Rules
Earlier this year the Government announced a new Housing Guarantee to support the delivery of new affordable rent and private rent housing. It has now published the full scheme rules for affordable housing.
The rules for housing associations to borrow under the scheme are available to read here
Deputy Director of External Affairs
Home Builders Federation
London, SE1 9PL
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