A new government-backed body set up to police the building industry faces claims it lacks representation from architects, ordinary homeowners and BAME communities whose Covid-19 death rates have been linked to poor housing standards.
Labor had demanded the New Home Quality Board [NHQB] lacked independence as it was chaired by a Conservative MP and Conservative-linked developers sit on the board alongside it. On Friday, it announced a new CEO and chairman as it moved into what it described as its “full operational phase”.
The body has published a code of practice for the homebuilding industry and is working to oversee the creation of the New Homes Ombudsman Service, due to launch this summer, with the stated aim of providing a “strong independent remedy to new build buyers who are having “problems with their new home or developer”.
However, the NHQB has been criticized by Ben Derbyshire, former chairman of the Royal Institute of British Architects, who questioned what he described as an “inexplicable absence of anyone with a background in design or in consultancy”. .
“British housing design, especially speculative mass housing, is generally very poor. The exceptions to this represent the minority of housing construction and renovation, but these exceptions should become the rule. Good housing architects are notably absent from housing construction and that will never change until the profession is represented on the New Homes Quality Board,” he said.
He expressed concern about the extent of representation of people from BAME communities on the board after the pandemic showed the correlation between poor housing conditions, overcrowding, disadvantage and deaths from Covid among ethnic minorities.
Cym D’Souza, chief executive of the Arawak Walton Housing Association, an organization specializing in the needs of black and minority ethnic communities, said: ‘What I would wonder is how this council would have a lived experience – at apart from perhaps Gillian Cooper of Citizens Advice, what is it like for an ‘ordinary’ person to come up against big developers when they are unhappy with their home and ultimately how framework supports the construction of new quality homes in this regard? »
From April, the new CEO of the NHQB will be Leon Livermore, former chief executive of the Chartered Trading Standards Institute (CTSI) for eight years.
Rob Brighouse, an engineer and Network Rail board member, has been appointed to replace MP Natalie Elphicke, who had been in the spotlight for having a second job earning £3,000 a month for spending around eight hours a week as chairman of the board. .
The HomeOwners Alliance – which has been particularly critical of the NHQB since its launch in 2021 with backing from then-housing minister Robert Jenrick – said the new appointments were a step in the right direction.
“Although overall the board seems quite one-sided as there are already at least four industry appointees, such as Taylor Wimpey,” added Paula Higgins, CEO of HOA.
“What the board lacks is the real perspective of buyers and owners of newly built properties. Who will be in attendance who has a consumer’s ear and who truly understands the issues buyers face when buying and owning new construction – from developers foregoing reservation agreements due to rising real estate prices, poor monitoring services? »
A spokesperson for the NHQB said it was created with the specific aim of improving the homebuyer experience, adding that it was committed to doing so and that consumers would have access to free recourse. and independent through a new mediator.
“The development of the code was subject to full public consultation, and the appointment of the Ombudsman for New Homes was subject to fully open procurement processes,” they added.
“The new appointments to the Board of Directors were made following a publicly announced and professionally managed recruitment process, and include a mix of representatives from consumer organizations, home builders, warranty providers , lenders and independents, which ensures that it will not be dominated by any group. The Board of Directors is fully committed to diversity and inclusion and continues to be at the heart of recruitment decisions.