Lyons aims to boost quality with housing numbers

Sir Michael Lyons’ roadmap to increase housebuilding has put quality high on its agenda. The Lyons Housing Review, which was commissioned by the Labour Party to inform its policy in the run up to the 2015 general election, outlines how housebuilding levels could be increased to build 200,000 units a year by 2020.

Key recommendations to increase numbers in the report, Mobilising across the nation to build the homes our children need, include:

  • Providing mechanisms to deliver: by establishing new homes corporations and garden city development corporations. Local authorities would be given a significant role in commissioning and building social housing once again
  • Increased competitiveness in the housebuilding industry: particularly growing the number of small housebuilders, by measures including underwriting of loans to small builders
  • A new impetus for planning: including the return of regional planning and a focus on enforcing and delivering local plans
  • Encouragement for investment in the housing sector: through measures including local partnerships and plans and a greater focus on delivery and funding from the Homes and Communities Agency.

However increased delivery is coupled with mechanisms to deliver better quality homes and communities. The review says that there is a need to build public support for housing, which “means building high quality homes that people want to live in, in places that will thrive, where communities can prosper and where the environment is protected for future generations.”

Its recommendations to deliver quality include:

  • The 2015 government should reaffirm its commitment to a genuine zero carbon standard for new homes, and set out a clear trajectory for all homes – reversing the exemption for small housing developments – to achieve this if further action is required beyond 2016. It should address issues around the performance gap, and work with industry to address key issues, eg, skills and knowledge
  • Streamlining housing standards for energy, water and security, into a single set which is implemented through building regulations. It says there should continue to be access to design review to ensure design quality
  • The Building for Life 12 standard should be referenced and encouraged by all local plans, to help in creating good places
  • The Local Government Association, working with the Home Builders Federation, Royal Institute of British Architects, Town and Country Planning Association and others, should establish a new kitemark for quality places reflecting the views of both original and new residents
  • Space standards should be introduced for all tenures. These should be incorporated in a new National Housing Design Guide
  • Incentives for local authorities to deliver a programme of garden cities and garden suburbs to help unlock 500,000 homes. It says that garden city principles should be applied to large scale developments of between 5,000 and 15,000 homes, including urban extensions. High standards of environmental sustainability would be set for homes in these areas, including protection and enhancement of the local environment, zero carbon buildings, water efficiency, green spaces and biodiversity.

Industry reaction

Liz Peace, chief executive of the British Property Federation: “We were told that the Lyons Review would be meaty, and it has certainly proved to be so. The sensible review is extremely comprehensive and pinpoints exactly where problems in the planning system are and comes up with thoughtful solutions.”

Stewart Baseley, executive chairman of the Home Builders Federation: “Policies that would result in more land coming forward for development more quickly and further assist first time buyers would clearly provide a boost to housing supply.”

Grainia Long, chief executive of the Chartered Institute of Housing (CIH) and a member of the Lyons Commission: “As the report points out, housebuilding is the best way to boost the economy and much of the investment comes back to the Treasury in increased tax revenue. We understand that it would be extremely difficult for any political party to commit to increasing borrowing in the current environment.  But the issue of the investment needed to tackle our housing crisis must be addressed and we welcome the report’s recognition that housing should be a leading candidate for extra public investment when that becomes available.”

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