The Brief: The country’s secretary of state for leveling up, housing and communities, Michal Gove, has accused UK homebuilders of using poor materials and producing houses that are “not up to the standards they should be”, during a conference at the Centre for Policy Studies. He added that communities “do not want ugliness imposed on them”.
Why It Matters: Bloomberg reports that Gove is set to introduce programs that will improve the aesthetic quality of new houses.
Finanze Foresights: The poor design history of so-called 'ugly developments' in the UK is a result of the government’s own initiatives. A 2020 report by The Guardian examined the proliferation of “depressing facades” as a result of the Help-to-Buy scheme that encouraged new builds. However, the quality of materials and design were compromised. In addition, retrofitting old buildings carries a 20% VAT charge, which makes it less practical for developers to pursue since new development costs are much cheaper. But Gove’s plan to elevate the aesthetic attractiveness of housing is nothing new as the government already met with the Architects Regulation Board (ARB) last year to propose sustainable ideas that will improve affordable housing. Gove’s proposal must focus on both aesthetics and enforce design standards on private developers that can accommodate government programs at the same time such as solar panel grants that help reduce energy bills. Doing so will improve the sustainability of housing stock for owners in the long run, which will also lead to lower rates for mortgagors as a result of improved EPC standards.
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