51% of England’s new builds have ‘major faults’
Recent research has revealed that over half of new home buyers have experienced problems with their properties. This follows Bovis Homes agreeing to pay compensation of £7m to customers who had been sold poorly built houses.
The survey was conducted by YouGov for the housing charity Shelter and found that of the recent new builds In England, 51% of homeowners stated that they had experienced serious issues including unfinished fittings, utility faults and construction.
Published alongside a report from Shelter, 4,341 UK adults were polled online for the survey, which determined that the housebuilding sector is skewed in favour of larger land traders and developers as opposed to prospective buyers.
Published after the recent housing white paper, the report also states that the current speculative system of housebuilding is failing families, by delivering houses which are expensive, but poor in quality.
In terms of working families who are renting privately, eight out of 10 are unable to afford a newly built home. Shelter stated that even if the Help to Buy scheme was used, the families would be able to meet the financial benchmark required. With 93% of families not being able to afford an average-priced new home, the West Midlands was ranked as the worst region.
Entitled New Civic Housebuilding, the report highlights Shelter’s wishes to once again produce affordable, yet good quality homes. They give examples of the villages in Bournville built for Cadbury workers and the Georgian terraces in Bath and Edinburgh.
In a reaction to the statement “I would prefer to live in a new home rather than an older one”, 41% of those polled disagreed, whilst 26% neither agreed nor disagreed. 45% also disagreed with the statement “New homes are built to a higher standard than older homes”, whilst 23% had a neutral stance.
During a period of increasing complaints about building standards and the sector’s regulation, the research has been published at a fitting time. The National House Building Council (NHBC), the body who conduct new home checks and provide 10-year warranties, have been criticised for being too close to housebuilders and failing to protect consumers.
Calling for a shake-up of the housebuilding sector, Shelter feels that development corporations with specific powers should be given a bigger role. Including the Olympic Delivery Authority, these businesses are able to acquire land and give planning permission.
The charity also cited further examples of “civic” building, mentioning the community-led developments in East Cambridgeshire as well as Derwenthrorpe. Here, the housing association Joseph Rowntree Trust collaborated with York’s city council to build almost 500 homes.
In order to ensure these models become more commonplace, Shelter also wants government involvement in order to increase the number of homes constructed by big housebuilders. Currently, they are only delivering 50% of the 250,000 houses required in Britain each year.
The co-author of the report, Toby Lloyd, commented on the need for the government to step-in: We need government to prioritise bringing more land forward at lower cost, by giving local authorities more powers, setting up development corporations and using public land in smarter ways than simply selling it to the highest bidder.”
To reduce the cost of land, Shelter has also suggested an equity partnership model should be adopted. This would mean landowners put land into a business partnership as equity on a long-term basis, enabling them to benefit from growing values year after year.
Explaining the risks regarding the price of land, the report states: “The most important risk taken by a speculative developer is how much to pay for a plot of land. This is fundamental to the speculative housebuilding model as land is often the single largest cost in building homes, especially in the areas which need homes most.”
The interim chief executive of Shelter, Graeme Brown, also commented on the need to re-think the housing system.
“For decades we’ve relied on this broken system and, despite the sweeteners offered to developers to build the homes we need, it simply hasn’t worked. The current way of building homes has had its day and it has failed the nation.”