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Housebuilders are failing disabled homebuyers by cutting corners on disabled access

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The latest research from new build snagging company, HouseScan, has found that not only is the number of new build homes being delivered to market with disabled access expected to fall throughout the next decade, but the ones that are being delivered are also unfit for purpose as housebuilders cut corners to maximise profits.

There are approximately 14.1m people living with a disability across the UK, around 21% of the total population. It’s thought that around 7.9m of these are working adults who face a tougher financial task when it comes to saving for a property, as living with a disability comes at an additional cost of £583 on average each month compared to those living without.

In addition to the tougher financial task, new build homebuyers with a disability also face a lower level of housing stock to choose from.

Not only has Covid caused new build housing delivery to fall by 45% per year, but research shows that over the next decade (2020-2030), the proportion of those new build homes built to accessible standards is predicted to fall from 34.4% to 31.5%.

This decline directly relates to accessible and adaptable homes (M4 Category 2) or wheelchair user dwellings (M4 Category 3). These homes provide additional features to the average new build including wider doors, stronger bathroom walls that can facilitate a grab-rail and greater circulation space for those in a wheelchair.

The proportion of wheelchair accessible new-build homes being built is declining according to new research

The latest figures show that 180,140 new build homes were completed across the UK over the last year. This reduced level of disabled accessible homes means that just 56,744 would have been fit for disabled new build homebuyers, over 5,000 less than the level delivered prior to 2020.

Over the course of a decade, a consistent rate of new build housing delivery would see over 1.8m homes delivered with just 567,441 of these fit for disabled homebuyers.

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With both property prices and stock availability making it harder for disabled homebuyers to climb the property ladder, it’s hardly surprising that the 2019/20 figures show that just 40.9% of disabled people owned their own home – the lowest level in the last seven years.

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However, HouseScan has also found that it isn’t just stock delivery that is failing disabled homebuyers, even the standard of homes reaching the market are unfit for purpose.

One such homebuyer to suffer from this and other housebuilder failings is John Gaskell, who bought a property from the development arm of Cambridge Housing Society Ltd,  due to their claims of ethical housebuilding, which he soon found did not seem to extend to new-build homebuyers on his small development.  

A snagging survey of John’s house by HouseScan found multiple failings by the developer, failings that John is still campaigning to have put right with his Homebuyers Fightback campaign, which has received the backing of local MPs and the former chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group that investigated problems in the new-build sector. In addition to the 150 defects found in the property, John also discovered that the developer had cut corners where the disabled access to his home was concerned, rendering the property to not meet basic Part M disabled access building regulations.

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He was first alerted to the problem after HouseScan had inspected the problem. After the developer had pushed back on various areas of the report, despite there being clear violations of building regs, John instructed a registered expert witness to inspect the property, who reaffirmed the downstairs WC had not been built in accordance with disability access requirements. There is also a problem with an excessively steep pathway to the front door which would make it difficult for safe wheelchair entry.

John said that after reading both the detailed reports, it became clear that the developer could not have properly understood what is needed to accommodate the basic needs of wheelchair users, despite the clear diagrams and details in the building regulations and NHBC standard. If the house had been built one brick wider or the limited space been appropriately configured, the problems would not have arisen.

Mr Gaskell went on to say he was concerned that the CEO of a registered charity, which claims to support the disadvantaged and the disabled, who is also on the Board of the Cambridge Sub-regional Housing Board, had referred to the catalogue of problems in his new home as ‘ largely cosmetic or decorative’ in the local and national press. He has submitted the reports to the developer, along with an estimate for the cost of putting things right, but the CEO has not even replied.     

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Founder and Managing Director of HouseScan, Harry Yates, commented: “In this day and age, it’s just not acceptable that some housebuilders continue to cut corners, and quite frankly it’s appalling that they would allow such serious errors to occur where disabled access to a property is concerned.

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“Unfortunately, it’s a problem that we’re seeing more and more of in our work at HouseScan. The repercussions from serious, technical issues are far greater than those from your more common, aesthetic snagging issues. In some cases, these issues are severe enough to cast concern on whether or not the house should have been signed off in the first place.

“Although we see many new homes that have been built to correct standards, the push for more new homes and the increasing amount of professional snagging inspections taking place means that we’re seeing more and more issues come to light, leaving home buyers uncertain and anxious about the quality of their homes.

“While John is leading the charge in highlighting this issue, we would urge anyone who thinks they’ve been let down on any aspect of their new build to make themselves heard so that the handful of housebuilders who chance their luck on the life savings of their customers are held to account and the overall standard of new homes in the UK can improve.”


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Construction

Housebuilder reports “exceptional demand” as Aberavon development launched

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“Exceptional demand” has been reported as the first homes at a new development on Aberavon seafront were released for sale.

All appointments were fully booked on Saturday as Persimmon Homes West Wales opened the doors to the sales office.

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Two homes were purchased at the Awel Afan development and a further 10 reserved on the Early Bird scheme over a busy weekend.

A total of 137 homes are being built on the former Afan Lido Leisure Centre site on Princess Margaret Way.

Sharon Bouhali, Sales Director at Persimmon Homes West Wales, said: “We’re pleased to have launched our Awel Afan site.

“The demand has been exceptional. Right from the moment we acquired the site and announced the plans, we have seen a phenomenal amount of interest from a wide range of people wanting to live in his amazing location.

“The housing market remains buoyant in West Wales but, even so, the buzz around Awel Afan is almost unprecedented.”

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Opened by the Queen in the 1970s, the Afan Lido was destroyed in a fire in 2009 and the site has been unused since.

Persimmon say the development will bring a massive boost to the local economy through the construction industry and its multiplier effect. According to figures from the House Builders Federation, for every £1 spent on housing, £3 goes back into the economy.

The national house builder says that each home built also creates 1.5 full-time direct jobs – and at least twice that number in the supply chain.

The development will be made up of two, three and four-bedroom houses, as well as a range of two-bedroom flats.

Homes currently on sale include the popular two-bedroom terraced Alnwick with its modern open plan kitchen/diner and the four-bedroom detached Hornsea with ensuite and integral garage.

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Persimmon Homes recently supported Afan Lido Girls FC with a game-changing grant of £20,000 through its Building Futures campaign.

(Lead image: Persimmon Homes)

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Construction

Time to raise the bar on Wales’ housing standards says Minister

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Welsh Government Minister Julie James has announced the upcoming launch of a consultation on proposed new social housing quality standard for Wales.

The Minister said the Welsh Housing Quality Standard 2023 (WHQS 2023) would ‘build on the excellent achievements of its predecessor’ – the standard introduced in 2002.

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Since then, the Welsh Government has worked with social landlord delivery partners to invest billions of pounds to significantly improve and maintain the quality of social homes across Wales.

As a result, by the end of 2020, 99 per cent of social housing in Wales met the original WHQS – a standard which is more demanding than in the other home nations.

Speaking in the Senedd, the Minister said: “Reflecting on the levels of achievement of the current standard, I am sure members will agree that, after 20 years, the standard is due to be reviewed, especially to acknowledge the considerable changes to how people live, work and feel about their homes.

“The world has moved on apace in the last 20 years and our expectation of our homes has moved on too.

“The proposed standard aims to be bold but ultimately achievable. We aim with our consultation to ensure that the voice of the sector is taken into account in finalising these standards and getting them right.

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“Setting standards is not an easy business at the best of times. It is even more challenging setting standards relating to the decarbonisation of homes – which is a developing area where we are learning what works best on an ongoing basis.

“The £220m committed over this term of government to the Optimised Retrofit Programme, our whole house, pragmatic, approach to decarbonising existing homes will help.

“It will provide some of the answers to how we effectively and efficiently reduce carbon emissions from homes in line with our Net Zero Wales plan.

“However, in the face of the climate change emergency we cannot stand still, and we must continue to push progress and set standards to address decarbonisation through a variety of measures in existing social housing.”

More than 900 tenants have been involved in the development of the new standard and technical elements have been supported by experts who have looked at what else is happening across the UK and the rest of the world.

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The Minister added: “I make no apology for proposing what some will see as a bold approach, I am determined the standards bar should be raised again.

“Meeting our Net Zero Wales targets requires us to make determined progress and I believe these standards are fit to take us forward in that regard.

“Our social housing tenants deserve these standards to be the best we can make them.

“My firm hope is that these standards will not only be brought to bear for social housing, but that in the future other tenures may consider how they too might meet and exceed these expectations.”

The proposed WHQS 2023 standards will be published for consultation from Wednesday May 11 and will be open for stakeholders to respond to for 12 weeks.

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Construction

Skills shortages and material costs continue to impact Welsh construction activity

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man in white and black plaid dress shirt holding white printer paper

Construction market activity continues to rise in Wales despite rising material costs and ongoing skill shortages, latest data from the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) suggests. However, the sector doesn’t expect to make a profit this year.

The Q1 2022 RICS UK Construction and Infrastructure Monitor shows greater than +40% of respondents in Wales reporting a rise in workloads in the quarter, up marginally from +37% in Q4 2021.

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The report says that infrastructure projects, alongside activity related to the development of public and private sector housing shows the strongest workload growth – with private housing up +48% and public housing up +54%.

Despite the growth in current workloads, the impact of global supply shortages, rising costs and a lack of skilled workers are impacting on activity.

When it comes to labour, 66% of survey respondents said that they were experiencing a shortage of quantity surveyors, whilst 67% reported shortages in other construction professionals and 65% pointed to a lack of labourers.

Despite the current challenges, respondents still remain relatively optimistic for the coming year ahead regarding workloads. However, they expect profit margins to be severely impacted by rising costs. Over a third (+36%) of respondents expect workloads to rise in the next 12 months. However, expectations for profit margins are now firmly negative with a net balance of –25%.

Aled Davies of VINCI Construction UK Limited in Cardiff said that material prices are increasing exponentially.

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Peter Jenkins of Willis Construction Limited in Cardiff said that the impact of the war in Ukraine is being felt in fuel and material costs as well as their availability.

RICS Chief Economist, Simon Rubinsohn, commented: “The good news in the latest report is that the industry remains positive about the outlook for activity and that the generally upbeat mood can be seen not just in regard of infrastructure and housing development but also in the commercial sector.

“However, it is clear that the sector faces significant challenges which have been reflected in recent official data showing a sharp rise in vacancies across the construction industry. RICS numbers demonstrate these shortages are pretty much across the board including quantity surveyors and project managers as well as both skilled trades and more general labour.

“This, combined with problems around accessing building materials in the current environment, is exerting significant upward pressure on construction costs at the present time.”

(Lead image: Tima Miroshnichenko / Pexels.com)

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