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Housing Standards Review

The Government has announced the conclusion to the Housing Standards Review.  This review aimed to simplify government regulations and standards into one key set, driven by Building Regulations.

One outcome from the review is dual level Building Regulations (Access and Water), which will give local authorities some choice to require developers to build to different standards than the minimum requirements.  Furthermore, with appropriate evidence, local authorities can also use the new space standards which make up the new national technical standards. There will also be a new mandatory Building Regulation for security.

Government has also clarified the future of the Code for Sustainable Homes – the Government owned standard for sustainable house building.  The written ministerial statement withdraws the Code (in England) so Local Authorities should no longer require it as a planning condition for new approvals.   Where there are existing contractual arrangements, for example with Registered Social Landlords under the Affordable Funding Programme 2015-2018,   it will be possible to continue to register and certify against the Code.

The new dual level Building Regulation have come about because of clauses within the Deregulation Act).  The Act also brings in a Clause which will amend the Planning and Energy Act 2008 to prevent local authorities from requiring higher levels of energy efficiency than Building Regulations.  This second Clause has yet to be commenced, and the written ministerial statement sets out how this will be implemented in 2016.  Local Authorities in England will no longer be able to require levels of the Code for Sustainable Homes. 

BRE Global will continue to support RSLs and private house builders who wish to continue with existing Code assessments.. 

In the wake of this, BRE is developing the Home Quality Mark – which aims to transform the way consumers choose the homes they buy and rent and allow home builders to differentiate themselves in the marketplace.

Housing Standards Review – Frequently Asked Questions

1) Is the Code for Sustainable Homes now obsolete?

  • No, where there are existing arrangements or developments that are within the process of building to the Code, these should be continued.
  • Code assessment should be carried out where developments are legally contracted to apply a Code policy (e.g. affordable housing funded through the National Affordable Housing Programme 2015-18) , or where a case has been granted outline permission (before 27th March 2015)
  • In Wales, the Code continues to be a funding requirement for social housing

2) Can Housing associations still build to Code for Sustainable Homes under the 2015-18 affordable funding round?

  • Yes where this is a contractual obligation under the 2015-18 affordable funding round, or an earlier funding round.
  • From later this year, Housing Associations will also be able to voluntarily use BRE’s new housing standard, the Home Quality Mark (see below).

3) I have a planning requirement to build to Code – can I forget about it now?

  • No, where planning has been granted before the 27th of March 2015 any existing Code requirement can remain in place provided it meets the legacy criteria set out above. Some legacy sites may still be building to the Code for some years to come; a similar situation occurred with EcoHomes.

4) Have registrations closed?

  • No, there will be a legacy of projects that still require assessment and certification under the Code as a result of existing contractual agreements and policies. The Code will therefore remain open to new registrations in the normal way. This is something that is likely to be reviewed over time by Government.

5) The local authorities in the region where I work do not appear to have understood or acted on the changes yet, how will they be implemented?

  • The planning Written Ministerial Statement gives planning policy guidance from Central Government to Local Authorities.  It is up to the LA’s to implement it accordingly; developers are able to appeal against extant planning conditions if they wish, or can apply under the Planning Act to have extant conditions removed or varied – so the changes will become self-policing. If Government feel the changes are not being implemented accordingly, they may choose to introduce further legislation in the next parliament.

6) The planning statement says that Local Authorities can require up to Code Level 4 energy until 2016 – how will this be enforced?

  • It is unclear how local authorities will do this, there may be cases where LA’s enforce this differently to each other. Developers may wish to use the services of a BRE licensed Code / HQM assessor to provide certification evidence in these cases, this could reduce the possibility of different local interpretation and save developers time and effort.

7) Will all issues currently covered by the Code for Sustainable Homes be included within building regulations/national standards?

  • Only an element of Security is going into mandatory Building Regulations.
  • The Government is proposing that the higher standards for water efficiency (although still below what could be achieved under the Code) and acces become “optional regulations” within the Building Regulations
  • At most (including the optional requirements) around 30% of the current Code is available to local authorities to require through the updated/new Building Regulations.

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8) Will all new homes be built to the new space standards / access requirements, etc?

  • No, this is an optional planning standard, subject to local authorities’ justifying the case for their application on the basis of need and viability. The two new optional Building Regulations on access  are available for local authorities to apply to housing of any tenure, subject to need and viability considerations underpinning the local plan policy 

9) What does viability mean?

  • There is a definition at paragraph 173 of the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF), and the NPPF sets out the general policy context for the application of viability work in the setting of plan policies and in development management. Further planning guidance on viabilty is also available at this link.  

10) Is there now a level playing field regarding Energy requirements from local authorities?

  • No, the consultation says they can be up to Code Level 4 before 2016.

11) What is BRE doing in response to the Housing Standards Review?

  • BRE has been developing a new voluntary housing standard – the Home Quality Mark, which developers will be able to use to promote their homes to consumers, assessed by our Assessors network (see www.homequalitymark.com).
  • We also continue to engage with various partners to help ensure that housing standards continue to increase.
  • Further information about our past activities / announcements can be found on the left hand menu.

12) Where can I find more information on the Home Quality Mark?

13) What about BREEAM?

  • The scope of the Government’s consultation has been on new Housing standards, it is not related to other new buildings or existing buildings. BREEAM, unlike the Code, is a BRE standard which is not owned by Government. There is no need for local authorities to alter their policy in relation to BREEAM and the setting of requirements for higher sustainability standards for non-housing developments.

14) I'm a Code Assessor, what does it mean for me?

  • Code assessors who remain licensed with BRE can continue to register and submit Code assessments for certification with BRE. In addition they will be able to register and certify under to the HQM once it is operational and build-up a Code-replacement business (whilst legacy Code assessments are completed). Whilst exact details of how BRE will train-up and qualify existing assessors under the HQM have yet to be decided we do want to ensure that, for those assessors interested in transitioning to the HQM, the cost, time and effort is minimal. In doing so we will recognise the experience and competency that BRE licensed assessors already have as a result of many years assessing to the Code with us. We welcome and will listen to assessor feedback and views on this.
  • Code assessors licensed with other Code service providers and those interested in becoming an assessor for the first time, can apply for CSH/HQM (domestic) assessor status with BRE. To become a licensed assessor you will need to go through the appropriate level of CSH training (and/or its HQM equivalent once available) and apply for the relevant BRE licence. Interested parties can contact us here


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