UK housing means high rents and low standards

Taken from the Guardian

The Home Builders Federation supported by the NHBC (the warranty providers) reported that 98% of the first owners of new houses discover defects on moving in (MPs call for ombudsman to resolve new build problems, 30 June). Bearing in mind how many housebuilders maintained the blacklist of skilled men deprived of a living because they put professional finish ahead of speed and profit, it is perhaps not surprising that the houses they deliver are of such a low quality.

What is surprising in a market economy is that these companies can continue to trade shoddy goods and make huge profits while failing on a regular basis to build the houses that are so badly needed. But maybe things are about to change when Dominic Raab, the housing minister, says the “vice-like grip” of the big developers must be broken, because if you buy a home direct from a developer, there is no redress if defects are discovered. Better late than never, a single housing ombudsman is to be considered.

Henry C Pryor
Hay-on-Wye, Powys

 Why is the construction industry able to continue to perform to such low-quality standards? The inevitable consequences can be far more severe than just frustrated new homeowners. Ten years ago, I led a project looking at how to make possible high-quality, energy-efficient homes. The problem then – as now – was outlined, anonymously, by a contractor: “A quality culture where tradesmen take ownership of their work in a ‘no blame’ culture is alien to the construction industry. In the adversarial culture that is widespread, costs are cut to the bone. In such an environment, the tradesman on site has no awareness of the impact of his work on the eventual performance of the building.”

Many of the problems revealed about Grenfell (“features to stop fire spreading through the facade were missing or installed upside down; Combustible materials were added to Grenfell Tower cladding, inquiry hears”, Report, 18 June) are typical of this culture. Adopting a high-quality approach to construction would not only reduce costs and lead to homes that are healthy, energy-efficient, comfortable and desirable, it would also drastically reduce the possibility of life-threatening situations and potentially tragic outcomes.
Bruce Tofield
London

 With news that record numbers of people are exiting the capital to live in other parts of the UK due to rising property prices and cost of living (London property prices blamed for record exodus, 28 June), urgent attention should also be given to London’s rental market, which is also forcing people out.

High deposits and inflexibly long tenancy periods reduce the individual’s options to find good-quality affordable accommodation in the private housing sector – not to mention the net income of most key workers almost certainly limits all central London housing options.

If London is to thrive as one of the world’s most vibrant and economically viable cities, especially post Brexit, we need to be honest. Honest about the fact that London’s housing problems have not been caused by immigration, but more by housing laws in the UK.

Good quality housing in central London is urgently needed as those working in the capital have some of the highest commuting costs. Let us give young people the option of micro-flat living, designed to save space and money, close to their place of work.

Our mayor has a unique opportunity to move London in a new direction but we need action (and movement) fast.
Tony Perkins
CEO of LHA London

 “Landlords reject three-year tenancies as ‘vote grabbing’” (Financial, 2 July). Now what was it that Mandy Rice-Davies said?
Jim Wood
Cardiff