16 May 2008
Landlords and developers should not use the downturn in the housing market as an excuse for building substandard homes, the head of the government's regeneration agency has said.
Addressing procurement managers from housing associations and local authorities at the Procurement for Housing conference in Birmingham on May 13, Robert Napier, chair of English Partnerships, said it was vital to press ahead with energy-efficient homes in line with government targets.
By achieving economies of scale through more effective procurement, social landlords would find it easier to build low-carbon housing in line with the Code for Sustainable Homes, added Napier. He urged them to put pressure on their supply chains to help reduce carbon in new and refurbished properties, but warned that savings might not appear overnight.
'We are not going to use a cyclical downturn as an excuse for lowering standards,' he told Public Finance. 'We don't want to find in ten years' time that we are knocking down homes that we didn't build to the right standard.
'When you build to these standards, there may be a higher upfront cost but, at the same time, there will be lower running costs. It requires the sector to be ahead of the game and build houses that people want to buy and rent.'
Housing associations and other bodies that receive Housing Corporation grants or participate in English Partnership schemes are currently required to achieve Level Three of the code. By 2016, the government wants all new housing to be zero carbon – equivalent to Level Six.
But according to a report published on May 9 by the UK Green Building Council, made up of private builders and public sector bodies, the current definition of zero carbon cannot be achieved in about 80% of new homes. The report calls for greater flexibility over how energy efficiencies are identified.
David Orr, chief executive of the National Housing Federation, told the Commons environmental audit committee this week that private developers would build to lower standards for at least
eight years. 'This twin-track approach by the government is seriously hindering the sustainable housing agenda and slowing the green technology industry,' he said.