The Harman Report on Local Standards

The Harman report issued this week by an industry group raises the vexed question of standards for housing. The report tells us that the current regime is overly complex and unjustifiably expensive. I think that those of us in the industry knew this already, but it is important that Government knows it too.The report calls for a new standards body that works across the sector to simplify the standards.
So far so good.
But then the report starts to pick out some standards as evidence of this expensive complexity and the strident voice of the housebuilders can be heard telling us that sustainability standards should be left vague and non-specific. Trust us, it’ll be OK. Its clear to me that not all members of the working group will have agreed with this. Since the Building Regulations are set to achieve zero-carbon in 2016 then there really is no need to do anything else as regards energy savings.
Well hold on a minute, that’s assuming that the planned trajectory to 2016 is decided, when it isn’t. The housebuilders response to the proposed 2013 regs changes was something along the lines of: since we don’t know how effective the 2010 changes have been we should hold off changing the regs again until the industry has had a chance to assess this.
Methinks this lady doth protest too much.
The housebuilders job is to make money for shareholders from building houses, and that is all, so when we ask them a question we shouldn’t be surprised if the answer reflects that purpose.
Nowhere in the report is the more important question asked “how do we deliver the housing product that the purchasers want” or “how are we measuring what buyers/tenants want and the success of our delivery” or even, “what represents a model of housing supply that delivers a sustainable outcome”?
Until these questions are asked then all the reports in the world are not going to improve new housing delivery. Reverting to type by fobbing off society with identikit lowest denominator housing that meets Building Regs and aspires to nothing more is no future for the housing industry. The language in this report suggests that that is a highly likely future.

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