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May calls for better homes as MPs warn house building target at risk

UK News | Published:

The PM is calling for new building regulations as the Public Accounts Committee says ministers lack a plan to meet the 300,000 homes goal.

Theresa May

Theresa May is calling for new design standards for house builders to ensure future owners and tenants are not forced to live in “tiny” homes with inadequate storage space.

In her latest move to secure a political legacy, the Prime Minister will hail figures showing that by the autumn, a million new homes will have been added in under five years.

But she suffered an embarrassing setback as an influential Commons committee warned the Government would struggle to meet its target to deliver 300,000 new homes a year by the 2020s.

The Public Accounts Committee said hitting the target would require a significant increase in the rate of house building, with the number of new homes averaging just 177,000-a-year between 2005-06 and 2017-18.

New houses under construction
MPs have warned the Government will struggle to meet its house building target (Joe Giddens/PA)

However, it said the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government still did not have a clear implementation plan, while “inherent problems” in the planning system could jeopardise its chances of achieving it.

The committee chair Meg Hillier said: “Government needs to get a grip and set out a clear plan if it is not to jeopardise these ambitions.”

In a speech to the Chartered Institute of Housing conference in Manchester on Wednesday, Mrs May will say changes brought in by the Government had seen a rise in the numbers of new homes.

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However, she will warn that the drive to build more should not come at the expense of quality, with tenants and buyers currently facing a “postcode lottery” depending on where in the country they live.

While some local authorities make nationally described space standards – introduced by the Government in 2015 – a condition of granting planning permission, she will say that many still do not.

Even where they are applied, she will say they are still not mandatory and in a clear message to her successor as prime minister, she will call for the creation a new system of universal mandatory regulation.

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“I cannot defend a system in which owners and tenants are forced to accept tiny homes with inadequate storage, where developers feel the need to fill show homes with deceptively small furniture, and where the lack of universal standards encourages a race to the bottom,” she is expected to say.

Mrs May will point to figures showing that since she entered No 10 in 2016, the number of extra homes being created was up by 12% in Manchester, 43% in Nottingham and 80% in Birmingham.

Last year, she will say, more additional homes were delivered than in all but one of the previous 31 years while the number of affordable housing starts this year has risen to almost 54,000.

While the Government had put in place permanent structural changes which will benefit the country for years to decades to come, she will warn there are no grounds for complacency.

“The housing shortage in this country began not because of a blip lasting one year or one parliament, but because not enough homes were built over many decades,” she will say.

“The very worst thing we could do would be to make the same mistake again.”

Mrs May will also confirm plans to end so-called “no-fault” evictions, with a consultation to be published shortly, and set out a timetable for action on social housing including improved rights for tenants.

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