Thursday 9 March 2017

Higher Standards for Housebuilders Do Not Slow Development

The Truth has Been Revealed by Scottish Developers

NOTE - a new blog with updated data is available here

Housing developers say that if you make them build more energy efficient homes, they'll cost more and less houses will be built.

Our politicians have swallowed this argument hook line and sinker time and again.

I've written about this before - the flaw in the argument is the assumption that the developers costs have to rise. They don't. This is because one of the main costs of building the house is what you pay for the land, and if everyone is faced with the same regulations, then the value of the land is driven down and the landowner makes a slightly smaller profit from the deal.

Developers have successfully held up tighter building regulations on numerous occasions.

  • The update to building regulations in England in 2012 ended up as only a 7% reduction in carbon emissions (compared to the significant cut required in the original zero carbon homes policy)
  • In Scotland in 2012 there was no energy efficiency improvement at all.
  • The Housing Standards Review resulted in legislation in 2015 with the intent of limiting local authorities powers to require higher energy efficiency homes through planning (legislation that is still not in force).
  • Finally, after 10 years of clear policy direction, one of George Osborne's last acts before disappearing off to take lucrative directorships, was to tear up the Zero Carbon Homes plan (the existence of which had been mendaciously used to justify the changes in the Housing Standards Review).

So it's very interesting to see what's been happening in Scotland. After many years of shadowing Westminster on building regulations (apart from the obvious requirement to go just a percentage point or two lower on carbon emissions to make a point), Scotland really pulled ahead with its changes to regulations in 2015.  The graph at the top of this piece shows the gap opening up.

If developers' claims that higher levels of regulation would stop housebuilding in its tracks were true, you'd expect housebuilding in Scotland to have gone off a cliff.  Has it?

Has it hell.