20 May 2009, 2:35 PM
Housing Associations have been given money to buy surplus private sector housing, yet thousands of unsold new build homes in England are being rejected by the Associations as they are not of a high enough standard.
It is estimated there could be as many as 100,000 unsold new-build homes in the UK, and with about 4.5m people on housing waiting lists, the government's Clearing House Fund looked like the perfect solution.
English RSLs have purchased about 5,000 homes and have funding to buy the same again, but Gavin Smart, of the National Housing Federation explained that all was not so simple: "It's very hard to put a number on homes we are rejecting, he said, "but it would be a significant proportion because private developers simply do not have to build to the same standards as housing associations.
"Many of the homes that we are being offered would not meet those standards and quite sensibly housing associations looking at those homes are saying they are not of a suitable quality for them to purchase."
Properties built from scratch for the public sector have to reach at least Code for Sustainable Homes level 3, and in some cases 4., this means high environmental standards, energy efficiency, water efficiency and a minimum size.
In the private sector the specifications are a lot lower and there is no minimum size. The UK builds the smallest homes in the developed world. In Holland the average size of a new build dwelling is 115 sq m and in Japan it is 92.5 sq m, while in the UK it is just 76 sq m.
Private developers deny that there problems. John Stewart of the Home Builders Federation said: "There is no evidence at all that quality is poor. Customer survey results suggest there are very high levels of satisfaction with homes people have bought. Space and affordability go together - house builders have to build what house buyers can afford to buy."
Both the Royal Institute of British Architects and the Chartered Institute of Housing believe the government should force all builds to have higher minimum standards.Richard Capie from the Chartered Institute of Housing said: "We have got to say to ourselves the homes we are building today will be here for generations. If we make them too small or if we don't for instance have enough storage and they are not going to meet the needs of families and individuals, then we are going to pay the price for that later on."