More than half of new-build homes in England 'have major faults'

Shelter survey finds 51% of owners of recent new builds experience problems including construction, fittings and utilities

More than half of the buyers of new homes have experienced major problems with their properties, according to research, which comes after Bovis Homes agreed to pay £7m compensation to customers for poorly built houses.

A YouGov survey for the housing charity Shelter found that 51% of homeowners of recent new builds in England said they had experienced major problems including issues with construction, unfinished fittings and faults with utilities.

The survey, which polled 4,341 UK adults online, was published alongside a Shelter report that concluded that the housebuilding sector is rigged in favour of big developers and land traders rather than families looking for homes.

The current speculative system of housebuilding is failing families by producing expensive, yet poor-quality homes, according to the report, published after the government branded the housing market “broken” in its recent housing white paper.

Eight in 10 working families who are renting privately cannot afford to buy a newly built home – even if they use the government’s Help to Buy scheme, Shelter said. The West Midlands ranked as the worst region, with 93% of families unable to purchase an average-priced new home.

In the report, titled New Civic Housebuilding, the charity calls for a return to building good-quality, affordable homes like the model villages for Cadbury workers at Bournville, the red brick developments of the Peabody and Guinness estates, the Victorian and Georgian terraces in Edinburgh and Bath, and the garden cities of Letchworth and Welwyn.

The YouGov poll showed 41% of homeowners disagreed with the statement “I would prefer to live in a new home rather than an older one”; 29% agreed, and 26% neither agreed nor disagreed. And 45% disagreed with the statement “New homes are built to a higher standard than older homes”; 22% agreed and 23% were neutral.

The findings come amid rising complaints about poor building standards in new homes and the regulation of the sector. Critics claim the National House Building Council (NHBC), which checks new homes for defects and provides 10-year warranties for most new homes in Britain, is too close to the housebuilders and is failing in its duty to protect consumers.

Last week Bovis Homes’ interim boss, Earl Sibley, apologised to customers as the company set aside £7m to pay compensation and to fix shoddily built new homes, with many customers reporting hundreds of “snags” after moving in.

Shelter called for a shake-up of the housebuilding sector, with a bigger role for development corporations, which have specific powers (such as the Olympic Delivery Authority) – they can give planning permission and acquire land, if necessary compulsorily, at reasonable prices.

Other recent examples of “civic” building cited by Shelter include the Duchy of Cornwall’s housing developments at Newquay; community-led developments in Streatham and Wilburton in East Cambridgeshire, and Derwenthorpe, where the Joseph Rowntree Trust, a housing association, teamed up with the city of York council to build nearly 500 homes – more than 100 years after Joseph Rowntree built York’s garden village of New Earswick.

Shelter wants the government to step in to ensure these models are scaled up and become more common – to top up the homes built by the big housebuilders, which are currently only constructing half the 250,000 homes needed in Britain every year.

Toby Lloyd, who co-authored the report, said: “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.”

Public land should be invested in public-private partnerships to deliver affordable homes and generate long-term revenues for the public sector.

Shelter also proposes an equity partnership model to bring down the cost of land, which would see landowners put their land into a business partnership as equity over the long term, benefitting from rising values year after year – rather than taking a one-off windfall payment.

The report explains: “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.”

Graeme Brown, Shelter’s interim chief executive, said: “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.”


Julia Kollewe

The GuardianTramp

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