During a Westminster Hall debate on Wednesday, both Labour and Conservative MPs raised concerns over the quality of many new build homes, highlighting the damaging impact of the government’s expansion of permitted development rights and calling for the introduction of improved or legally-binding housing standards.    

The shadow minister for housing and planning, Matthew Pennycook MP (Lab), said: 

“…the Government must, as a minimum, rescind the damaging relaxation of permitted development rights and return those powers to local government. Ministers should then turn their attention to what more the Government must do to encourage the creation of thriving communities that support the health and wellbeing of their residents, not least by implementing comprehensive national housing standards so that developers—particularly the volume housebuilders—have no choice but to deliver in core place making.” 

David Johnston MP (Con), the Conservative MP who led the debate, also argued powerfully for raising housing standards, and concluded: 

“As the chief executive of one of my local housing associations said to me, “[Developers] are building something to walk away from, and we are buying something we need to maintain for people to live in for 50 to 100 years.” That is at the core of the problem....a home should be a sanctuary, not a place of great stress.” 

The Building Safety Bill is currently making its way through Parliament and will soon reach report stage in the House of Commons. Amending the Bill to make its contents as ambitious as its long title – that is, to ensure the safety (and therefore health) of all people in or about buildings  would address the concerns raised by some MPs in the debate on Wednesday, by requiring developers to build all new homes to a standard which supports people’s health and wellbeing. Those which do not would be outlawed. 

Wednesday’s debate makes clear that concern for poor housing quality goes beyond party politics. Introducing legally-binding housing standards that consider all factors that shape people’s health and safety in or about buildings – not just risk of fire - to the Building Safety Bill, would be an ambitious but practical solution that would improve thousands of people’s lives. We are currently working with Lord Nigel Crisp to do this.  

The TCPA will publish an urgent briefing about how the Building Safety Bill could still be used to transform the quality of the built environment before it reaches report stage in the Commons.