Tackling the under-supply of housing: our submission to the House of Lords Enquiry

by Flora Samuel (University of Reading) and the Quality of Life Foundation.

In the light of the House of Lords’ recent report on Tackling the Under-supply of Housing in England, we thought we would publish the submission we made to the process (below).

Summary

We would advocate a housing system that is:

  • evidence-based;
  • takes a long-term approach;
  • is based on the triple bottom line of sustainability (social, environmental, financial);
  • and puts local communities at the heart of the decision-making process.

What social and demographic factors shape housing demand in the UK? What are the expected future trends in housing demand?

There are some fundamental problems in the way demand is calculated at the moment, that fail to address either social or demographic factors.

The government offers guidance on ‘Housing and Economic Needs Assessment’ (UK Gov, 2015) including ‘household growth projections’ and techniques for assessing affordable housing need (Dunning et al., 2020). The forecasting demand for homes in local authorities, often commissioned from private sector organisations, is done at a very blunt level, with flats versus houses or two beds versus three beds, but generally there is no standardised approach and very often these needs are not spatialised through maps. The categories under which ‘demand’ is calculated are limited and do not include large family homes or other emergent ways of living such as Cohousing, Coliving and other kinds of communal arrangements that enable people to share costs and care. Demand needs to be predicted more precisely, assessed in relation to holistic area assessments of economic, social and environmental value and geotagged to specific places.

At a local level, the current Cardiff Council consultation for their Local Plan, citizens are asked about the people in their households who are likely to move out. Engagement with such consultations is notoriously poor so the answers are likely to be quite skewed. The assessment of housing need is usually based on calculations of existing stock compared to households and future need (based on net immigration, mortality and the formation of new households). As Clapham notes, households tend to form — young people move out to set up their own homes — based on the availability of housing (Clapham, 2019) so there is a slight chicken-and-egg air to this which should make us sceptical about housing need assessments.

The way in which the government sets housing delivery targets needs to be more strategic, with less focus on numbers and more focus on delivering the right kind of value in the places where it is needed for the right period of time. This is likely to require a national review of residential use classes to reflect the diversity of housing types and to better match local supply and demand through the planning process (Park and Ziegler, 2016, p. 13).

Does the Government’s target of 300,000 new homes per year accurately reflect housing demand? Is this target achievable?

No. Numbers of homes are a crude measure of success. Without making sure that good homes are being built in the right places the government is likely to be building slums for the future or overheating the housing market in certain areas.

What is the balance of demand for new housing between homes for private ownership, privately rented homes, and social housing? How does this affect the type and tenure required of new homes?

This is a crude way of categorising tenures. Digital technology allows for a range of different types of tenure that straddle these historical categories and can make access to housing more manageable (Smith, 2015).

What can be done to ensure there is a good balance of new homes where they are needed across the UK?

This comes down to upskilling and updating planning so that we have a comprehensive mapping system for the whole of the UK. Greater Manchester Combined Authority is a leader in this area (GMA, 2019) but there is work to be done in bringing existing ‘passive’ data sets together with ‘active’ citizen generated social value maps to deliver a holistic picture of where different kinds of outcomes are happening, where they are happening and how they should be changed (Hatleskog and Samuel, 2021). This is the focus of the Better Places Toolkit, an Innovate UK project currently led by Stantec with the University of Reading (Stantec, 2021). Going forward maps need to be central to ensuring that there is a balance of new homes built across the UK and that the homes are built on sites with adequate connection, jobs and facilities. Increasingly parametric design tools will be used to build accessibility into the maps, for example the impact of a motorway on people accessing facilities.

Currently Local Plans are made every five years or so, meaning that they are almost immediately out of date. Technology will allow for the emergent field of adaptive planning using real time and constant data input to assist with the making of transparent, evidence-based and democratic decisions (Harrison, Galland and Tewdr Jones, 2021). A digital, map-based system will be key to ensuring a good balance of homes and types of homes across the UK.

Is the construction sector able to deliver the UK’s housing demand? What barriers are facing the sector?

The construction sector is not able to deliver the UK’s housing demand. This is because of a number of factors that include the lack of investment in infrastructure, knowledge and skills; lack of innovation; reliance on large volume housebuilders; and too much short-term thinking throughout government and industry.

  • Lack of investment in knowledge and skills: In line with the efficiency drive caused by the Egan and Latham reports, the construction sector has been ‘hollowed out’, meaning that construction companies sub-contract the majority of their services. This means that construction companies do not take responsibility for the training and development of their operatives, one of the reasons why there is such a serious skills shortage across the sector and why construction companies are so poor at research and innovation (Green, 2011). Organisations such as MOBIE have been set up to address the skills shortage in off-site housing construction. The construction sector needs the guarantee of large, long-term contracts to enable it to invest in its future. This is hindering the uptake of MMC.
  • Lack of innovation: The construction sector faces multiple barriers that are preventing it from innovating and delivering. First of all is the adversarial world of traditional construction procurement that prevents teams from working together to develop long term learning. The advent of ‘outcomes’ or ‘value-based’ procurement together with shared ‘integrated project insurance’ is set to assist construction teams to work better together and is the idea behind the new Construction Innovation Hub Value Tool (Construction Innovation Hub, 2020). If construction teams are to demonstrate value they need to undertake post occupancy evaluation to check how their projects are performing. Unfortunately POE is very rare across the sector (Hay, Rowena et al., 2017) but could be promoted if it was a requirement of government procurement. A major barrier to achieving housing demand is a lack of knowledge of what works.
  • Reliance on large-volume housebuilders: There is too much reliance on large volume house builders for the delivery of UK’s new build housing (Clapham, 2019). A recent survey by the NHBC showed a consistent drop in registrations from firms that build under 30 units a year (Federation of Master Builders, 2018, p. 6). The reasons behind this are cited as availability of land, bureaucracy, planning and finance. Sinnett et al recommend that small builders are have a particular role in taking on small, difficult brownfield sites (2014). A Local Authority respondent we talked to for the CACHE Delivering Design Value project observed that small contractors were key to delivering unusual projects ‘There’s no way the big contractors will bid for them. And if they do, they’ll charge us an absolute fortune because it doesn’t really fit their model.’ (LASD, p.6). She noted how important it was therefore to support small, ideally local, contractors. Generally the ways to improve housing supply are well known but the political will is lacking to make them happen (Clapham, 2019).
  • Short-term thinking: At the Quality of Life Foundation, we believe that the housing system — from national and local government — suffers from short-term thinking that fails to take into account people’s long-term quality of life, by which we mean their physical, social and psychological wellbeing. The government’s obsession with delivering numbers takes priority over long-term social or environmental concerns, and profit maximisation incentives from the private sector drive substandard developments outcomes. Part of the problem is the nature of housing supply, which is based largely on a speculative / developer-led model or promoter-led model, but which would be better served by an investor/landowner model.
  • In the speculative/developer-led model, the developer controls the process and performs multiple functions. It’s high risk and requires a high return on capital employed. Other players take fees/contracts on small margins, so have an interest in securing repeat business from developer. Bank debt finance is high cost so the lender has no longterm interest in a place. The public only has influence at grant of planning permission only and there are strong incentives on the developer to reduce costs after grant of permission (i.e. value engineering). The developer carries sales risk so has a short term interest in the quality of build but no longterm interest in place. Critically, the price paid for the land determines end quality (even though the costs that determine QoL are fairly low). The interests of local community, wider public, developer, financier and end users can easily conflict.
  • In the promoter-led model, which has emerged in recent years, the promoter uses their own cash or private equity to acquire land before allocation (or to buy option or as promotion agreement). The promoter takes the site through the Local Plan allocation process and potentially to outline permission, but has no intention of securing detailed permission or building out, preferring to sell to a developer instead. This worsens all the bad features of the developer-led model. More of the value is extracted earlier on in the process by the promoter, leaving less for quality, and the developer is under even greater financial pressure to reduce costs and cut corners after acquiring site.

This does deliver a pipeline of sites for developers and so arguably improves overall numbers of homes built, but public authorities and local communities have to deal with different players at different stages, undermining trust and confidence in the system. 45% of all residential planning permissions in London were on land controlled by firms that had never built anything (Source: Molior, 2012).

  • The investor/landowner-led model has always been there but is not dominant. It has been led by voluntary, private, public and partnerships in the past, e.g. the council-led Boundary Estate in East London, Letchworth Garden City and Milton Keynes.

Sometimes called ‘master developer’ model, ‘legacy’ or ‘stewardship’ model, the key player is a body with long term public interest in mind. It could be philanthropic, public sector or even private investor — or a partnership of several. It doesn’t mean that the master developer has to do everything, but it does have to control the key determining moments, early on in the process. The master developer acquires the site at a pre-allocation price, either because they already own it and don’t need cash for it now (legacy landowner), or is able to acquire it cheaply (via philanthropic sale or compulsory purchase).

Alternatively, instead of actually acquiring the site, the master developer could act as a convener of a partnership in which multiple landowners retain a stake. This only really works if they can be compelled to surrender control to the partnership itself, to avoid the problem of squabbling over whose land gets what, so requires a credible threat of compulsory purchase as a last resort. The master developer prepares the masterplan (with lots of community engagement) and secures allocation and planning permission. The master developer can then parcel out chunks of the site to different developers/builders, including commercial developers, housing associations, self-builders and community groups. This can be via selling plots, with tight controls to ensure what gets built is in line with the master plan, or the master developer can retain ownership of the land and allow developers to build under license.

Even if land is cheap or free, this still requires significant capital outlay, so finance (including more equity than in traditional model) comes from long term, institutional investors that seek secure long term returns, rather than short run speculative gains.

Public interest is secured through cheap land AND a long-term approach to any profit motive, with the aim of aligning the interests of all parties early on in the process. It threatens promoters and challenges traditional speculative developer model, but creates opportunities for developers to participate as equity holders in partnership, take lower-risk parcels or contracts to build, and provides new opportunities for new entrants and different types of builder.

The Government has published its proposals for reform of the planning system. How can the planning system be shaped to meet housing demand?

  • What role should permitted development rights play in this?
  • How might changes to Section 106 agreements shape the provision of social housing?
  • How should communities be engaged in the planning process?

Let’s reinforce the triple bottom line: These issues have to be examined holistically. The Treasury Green Book and the National Planning Policy Framework use the commonly used ‘triple bottom line’ environmental, social and economic value as their basis of their activities however the ‘triple bottom line’ is not mentioned in the recent publication of guidance on the planning system. Instead the nebulous term ‘beauty’ is used. Lack of clarity about what constitutes value is not helping with meeting housing demand as it prevents us from collecting evidence of value and mapping it as a basis for holistic decision making. The new National Model Design Code is a system with much potential but rather than focus on aesthetics the code could focus on the delivery of certain types of value in different places.

Problems with permitted development rights: In such a system, permitted development could be built into the code if it fits in with agreed social, environmental and economic targets as well as the more aesthetic criteria described in the codes. Unfortunately, the current changes to permitted development rights open up two main risks: to the creation of substandard homes and to the permanent loss of commercial premises on high streets, which could cause damage to the social and financial sustainability of UK high streets.

The need for a map-based system: A clear, holistic, map-based system that looks at community assets and needs, including social determinants of health and wellbeing, would facilitate decision making about Section 106 agreements though they would probably become redundant as instead client bodies would be tasked with generating social, environmental and economic value in line with the maps. At the moment Section 106 agreements are problematic both for local authorities and developers (White et al., 2020) because they are used in a very random way.

Community engagement problematic: The way in which communities engage in the planning process is currently extremely problematic. Planning consultation whether for Local Plans or specific projects is perfunctory, reaches only a small constituency, piecemeal and difficult to engage with. There is no attempt to collate the information from consultations into a body of knowledge on what the community think and want. The AHRC Community Consultation for Quality of Life project led by the University of Reading with support from the Quality of Life Foundation, which began in July 2021, aims to set out a blueprint for community consultation both face to face and digital in the four policy contexts of the UK. Working with the digital consultation platform Commonplace the team aim to deliver a map-based consultation platform that will enable communities to feed information into local social value maps on an ongoing basis. The maps can then be used to test public opinion on projects and developments and to promote digital democracy. Using technology to make consultation easy will free up important resources for the key task of widening participation.

It is worth noting that digital exclusion is an ill-defined concept that Greater Manchester Council are trying to pin down, again through the use of maps (Greater Manchester Council, 2021).

What can be done to improve the quality of new homes? How can the design and aesthetics of new homes be improved?

For a start there needs to be agreement on what is meant by ‘quality’. This was the subject of the CACHE report Design Value at Neighbourhood Scale which concluded that quality, in other words design value equates to the triple bottom line of sustainability, environmental, social and economic value (Serin et al., 2018). Project teams need to be tasked with the delivery of social, environmental value in a way that fits into local value plans.

At the Quality of Life Foundation, we would argue for some social sustainability component to be written into the planning proposals so that people’s long-term quality of life is taken into account. We have developed a Quality of Life Framework that identifies those factors that are important in securing people’s long-term quality of life (control, health, nature, wonder, movement, belonging) and would advocate for the use of just such a framework or set of criteria in pre-planning applications, something we are piloting at the moment.

Land valuation has direct implications on the quality of design as excessive expenditure on land based on the highest possible returns means that when those returns look like they won’t be delivered projects are value engineered back with major reductions in quality in the process. This can be seen in the Bridgend case study, and others, in our report Delivering Design Value(White et al., 2020). Two methods tend to be used for the valuation of development land based on the RICS Red Book (2020). With the residual valuation method Income minus Costs (including profit) equals the residual land value. This can be a barrier to delivering design value as it maximizes the sale price and therefore leaves little left over for design or any other social outcomes. In general, this creates a race to the bottom among developers.

The other more commonly used approach is discounted cash flow. Expenditure is set out on the programme plan meaning that it is possible to work out the net present cashflow value of a project at any stage. This is more accurate as it takes time into account, the time money is spent and the amount of interest that needs to be paid on borrowed money. It also facilitates the building in of other kinds of value (RICS, 2019, p.17), for example social value. Land valuation needs to become more evidence based and fluid to accommodate changes in the system. In particular it needs to take into account social and environmental as well as economic value. This should be more straightforward if a value map-based system became the norm.

Few local authorities have design expertise so it is not surprising it is so low on the agenda (White et al., 2020). One way to improve the design and aesthetics of new homes would be to employ architects to design them as they are the most highly trained members of the project team and have a particular expertise in this area. Architects are marginal to the housing delivery process (White et al., 2020). With the advent of Design and Build Contracts they have lost their role as design champion. One way to improve the design and aesthetics of new homes would be a return to traditional building procurement in which the architect leads the team or even better to move to outcomes based procurement discussed above(Samuel, 2018).

Another barrier to quality is the lack of accountability in the planning system. There is no penalty for developers that don’t fulfil the commitments in their planning applications, and the result is too often poor or mediocre developments. One way of increasing accountability and thereby improving the design and aesthetics of new homes is post-occupancy evaluation (Coucill and Samuel, 2013). Assessing the impact of buildings in use will facilitate a cycle of improvement. The Quality of Life Framework, developed in collaboration with URBED (who also developed the National Model Design Code), is a health and wellbeing framework which includes important issues relating to aesthetics and experience of homes. The Quality of Life Framework has subsequently used the Framework as the basis for a new post-occupancy evaluation service, YourQOL, which gathers data on people’s lived experience over time. The collection of that POE data into an accessible resource would be a very straightforward way to measure and improve the design of homes.

Is the workforce equipped with the professional, digital and other skills required to meet housing demand, for example in the construction, planning and design sectors? What can be done to overcome skills shortages?

In short no, not to achieve demand in sustainable housing. A wholesale review is needed of skills delivery across the sector to ensure that it can deliver on social, environmental and economic value as well as retrofit. Even the National Federation of Builders recognises that contractors may have to ‘adjust their services’ to fit new ‘green’ funding streams. (NFB, 2019, p. 13), something that will require a change of ‘outlook and behaviour’ (NFB, 2019, p. 20). The NESTA Going Green report suggest a need for a new category for industries relating to their level of ‘eco-transformation’. This implies the existence of a class of individuals who assist with that transformation, both in industry and education. Rather like the way in which advertisers segment their market NESTA use the taxonomy ‘leaders, neutrals, followers and laggards’ to categorise industry. ‘Leaders and neutrals, or the green sector, are responsible for 7 per cent of UK emissions and account for about 55 per cent of total employment’ while the ‘followers and laggards’ account for the other 93% of emissions and 45 percent of employment. Unsurprisingly the majority of laggards are in areas that suffer from least investment. The authors identify ‘real estate’ as a ‘neutral’ and suggest that particular incentives need to be made by government to get this category on board. Unsurprisingly ‘construction’ is in the ‘laggard’ category and is likely to be ‘forced to restructure itself to be more green (Kapetaniou and McIvor, 2020, p. 16).

The Ministry of Building, Innovation and Education (MOBIE), offers dedicated modules to learning organisations that would give students direct experience of these new kinds of facility. As MOBIE CEO Mark Southgate observes of lack of interest in construction careers. “Millennials don’t want to go there, they want to use those design skills, they are intrinsically digital and design, and we’ve got to tap into that.”(LABC, 2020). In short the construction industry needs to change to become more attractive to a diversity of people. Key to this would be increasing alignment between construction and more successful and dynamic industries such as the creative industries.

Making MMC mainstream will require considerable upskilling of the construction team (LABC, 2020). An inability to innovate is particularly serious among small buiders. This is what makes the Mass Bespoke project based in Leeds so remarkable (Bauman and Harker, 2020). The team here are collaborating with local builders to develop very localised forms of digital construction using a panel system to create bespoke building solutions. Targeted research funding would enable more such localised collaborations to develop.

There are many examples of knowledge gaps between construction and other related sectors, particularly as housing delivery and housing itself becomes more digital. Bitterman and Shach-Pinsly identify a knowledge gap between the disciplines of computing, architecture and healthcare. ‘Architecture and town planning have been much less involved with smart house technologies, although they will be the professional group that will be responsible for designing and implementing smart homes and the future smart city’ (Bitterman and Schach-Pinsly, 2015, p. 266). There are pockets of housing research happening within the digital industries, for example Microsoft’s work on digitally enabled care or the work that is going into developing augmented reality experiences for potential home buyers and others. Smart home technologies aren’t really catching on that fast because of what Marikyan et al describe as a ‘knowledge gap’ in this area (Marikyan et al., 2019). They note that discussions of smart homes remain almost exclusively within electrical engineering, information technology, computer science, gerontology, biomedicine and robotics.

How does the Government interact with Local Authorities to deliver more homes? How can this relationship be improved?

The reform of the local government finance system is urgent and that ‘it is not just a technical issue’ but will ‘have profound implications for the type of country England is’ (Amin Smith and Phillips, 2019). Demand is not just a matter of numbers it is also about quality and location. Housing delivery needs to be recognised as a health intervention with improved links between the health and planning policy agendas (APPG for healthy homes & buildings, 2018).

There are many ways that local authorities can generate income but they need authority, expertise and capacity to do so (for example local authority-led development, second homes tax, land tax, land value capture, raised planning fees). First and foremost, the government needs to invest in local authority planning departments to enable them to update what they do in the light of technological change, most notably GIS mapping, AI and coding. The total expenditure on planning by local planning authorities is now just £900 million a year across England. More than half of this is recouped in income (mostly fees), meaning that the total net investment in planning is now just £400 million, or £1.2 million per local authority. This is fifty times less than local authority spending on housing welfare, and twenty times less than estimates of the additional uplift in land values which could be captured for the public during development (RTPI, 2019, p. 3).

Right to Buy must be scrapped in England to allow local authorities to reinvest in their own stock. Historically, the majority of homes built by local authorities were intended to be council-owned social housing. However, very few of these have been built since 1990, and the continued commitment to Right to Buy in England (now scrapped in Wales and Scotland) means that local authorities are under pressure to sell on their assets, thus reducing social housing provision (Stone, 2017; Welsh Gov, 2018). (Murie, 2016). Nottingham has built 600 affordable homes over 3 years but loses 400 per year (Clifford, 2020). In Wales 90% of social housing was sold through Right to Buy, 40% of it is now for rent with the PRS (Dicks, 2020).

A major negative influence on the housing sector’s ability to innovate are ‘framework agreements’ typically reviewed every four years, by local authorities and others, which include a select corpus of businesses that have been vetted long in advance, ready to jump at the opportunity to assist in building a new project. To get onto the framework businesses are often required to have high levels of experience and insurance to cover any eventuality. This rules out the employment of new and small organisations. One way to get round this is to develop frameworks for different scales of projects. Peabody’s small projects panel provides a good example (Bentley, 2018).

Government needs to free up local authorities to be more innovative in the funding and delivery of local authority-built housing. Investment in MMC and modular construction by government would make the use of novel methods of construction less risky, encouraging their use. If major growth in local authority housing was allowed it would mean that construction companies would feel confident that they will receive the steady stream of contracts necessary to make investment in innovation worthwhile.

Councils are now experimenting with delivering housing through other means, including through semi-independent housing companies (Morphet and Clifford, 2017, 2019) and in partnerships with the private sector (see White, 2020).These council-owned companies providing a mixed portfolio of housing tenders had, until 2018, been given little attention by government as a way of driving up supply (Hackett, 2017, p. 4). However, they are now beginning to produce significant numbers of new homes, which are likely to exhibit both high design quality and to be policy compliant (Morphet and Clifford, 2019). 95% are building on their own land. The motivation for local authorities delivering new homes include: diversifying the housing market, improving stock for private renting, producing tenure neutral new homes, and directly improving design and sustainability (UK Gov, 2018) (Hackett, 2017).

What are the main opportunities and areas of innovation for meeting the UK’s housing demand?

The social value agenda is a major opportunity for reorienting the supply chain towards social and environmental outcomes while benefiting local economies and facilitating levelling up. As discussed above, data collection has to be spatialised using maps. The development of UK Geospatial strategy is a real opportunity to use land a great deal better (UK Gov, 2020). Data collection on housing performance through Post Occupancy Evaluation, sensors and passive data sets is an opportunity to make homes more effective but this requires the upskilling of the sector. Considerable progress is being made in this area but it would be much faster if facilitated by government.

Access to land is often cited as the major barrier to delivery. The use of value maps for the strategic evidence based allocation of sites will mean that land can be used much more intelligently (Stantec, 2021). Sometimes, for example, it is better to build on a greenfield sight with low biodiversity because of industrial farming than it is to build on a brownfield site with high biodiversity. The Green Belt is a blunt instrument for controlling development. Development should happen in the strategic places where it can best generate social, environmental and economic value whether it is in the Green Belt or not. The case cannot be made for using Green Belt land without radically improving the UK’s value mapping capability as well as digital capacity for community consultation.

Housing is rarely discussed in the same arena as agriculture but there are major opportunities for housing in the new Agriculture Act. Further, as food insecurity increases, access to food will become a major consideration for housing. As farm subsidies diminish post-Brexit and eating habits move more towards plant-based diets, less land will be needed for animal agriculture. The strategic value maps will show where responsible development is most needed. Where this correlates with redundant agricultural land and facilities farmers should be allowed planning permission for sustainable homes that bring real social, economic and environmental value to the area (Samuel, forthcoming 2022).

The UK currently has a trade deficit in terms of construction materials. Supply of materials, particularly post-Brexit is a major issue. The use of local materials and local services is key to making the supply chain more resilient and has obvious social and environmental benefits too. This requires investment in small local house builders and creating more opportunities for training, apprenticeships and knowledge exchange with FE colleges.

Improved conditions within construction companies will be incentivised as the social value of the delivery organisations themselves start to be scrutinised by clients in recognition that they form part of the client organisations own social value. Better conditions, staff development and job satisfaction will reduce the incessant churn that currently happens in construction and planning organisations meaning that knowledge remains within organisations, facilitating research and innovation in the process.

With the growth of interest in ethical investment (see for example Tideway, 2018) social value and the ESR agendas of pension funds are coming into rapid alignment. Important work by the Good Economy and Pensions for Purpose makes the case for Place Based Impact Investment (The Good Economy, 2021) meaning that fund managers will be encouraged to invest in local projects, often housing. Once again this is where digital value maps will be of use for charting and forecasting where holistic value can be best achieved. If investment in local sustainable housing was made more easy, for example through social value bonds, more money would flow into housing development. In order to develop social value bonds, for example, mechanisms will be needed to demonstrate social value delivery and impact, another case for the making of holistic maps (Hatleskog and Samuel, 2021).

And finally, we must bring residents and consumers into the debate about housing.

Having a sense of influence or control over their environment is central to people’s health and wellbeing, yet consultation with individuals and communities throughout the planning process is currently inadequate and will potentially be worse under the changes to the planning system. There is a need to create a continuous conversation with local people through digital and face-to-face consultation that allows them to feel some sense of ownership over the agenda for their local area.

The housing industry also needs to vastly improve the way that they treat their customers. Housebuilders are notoriously bad at asking people what they think of the homes and neighbourhoods that have been built for them. Somehow, because the greatest consumer purchase that someone will make in their life is based on price and location, the quality and long-term sustainability of the product is not tested by simply asking people what they think of that product once in use — something that is standard in every other industry.

The housing industry’s principal measure of success is based on one simple question, asked when a resident has only just moved in: would you recommend this builder to a friend? If we are to increase accountability and improve delivery of homes and neighbourhoods then housebuilders must do more to find out what works and what doesn’t, and be prepared to improve their product based on people’s longterm health and wellbeing.

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Making wellbeing central to the way we create and care for our homes and communities. www.qolf.org

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