MPs attack £5bn government bill for ‘grotty’ new housing

The Homes and Communities Agency is under fire for bailing out sub-standard private sector projects

The government risks repeating the mistakes of the postwar housing boom by wasting hundreds of millions of pounds on funding “grotty” new homes, say MPs.

The Homes and Communities Agency, the national housing and regeneration body for England, which has an annual investment budget of more than £5bn, has admitted that 27 of the private-sector projects it has bailed out scored five or less out of 20 on the industry’s Building for Life benchmark, with two scoring just 1.5.

Homes failed on a range of basic measures, including poor space standards and over-reliance on single-aspect dwellings; inflexibility; low sustainability standards; and poor compatibility with neighbouring properties.

The HCA insists it is providing much-needed homes and helping the stricken building industry, but Alan Howarth, a Labour peer and former architecture minister, told Building Design magazine it had ignored its statutory duty to promote high-quality design. Howarth, who helped draw up the legislation that gave birth to the agency, promised to hold it to account by raising the matter in the Lords next month. “I don’t think there can be any excuse at all for the HCA sanctioning a new wave of grotty housing,” he said.

His worries were echoed by two members of the communities and local government select committee, Labour MP Clive Betts and Tory Paul Beresford, who called on the committee to carry out its own investigation.

The HCA’s chief executive, Bob Kerslake, said the agency had to balance its “commitment” to design with the urgent need to stimulate the economy. The Building for Life assessment was important, he said, but the HCA attached equal significance to the work of its local teams with on-the-ground knowledge.

From the Observer


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