Self-regulation did not work in the past - and it won't work in the future
Published 04/05/2015 | 02:30
There are many ways the Government could reduce the cost of building a one-off home.
Dropping the VAT rate imposed on professional fees, on building materials or on the cost of buying a new house from a builder spring to mind.
But it appears it's easier to blame professionals for hiking up the cost of building a property than seek to reduce a lucrative source of income.
Only a cynic would believe that the Government planned this review of building regulations in the run-up to an election, and as constituents expressed disquiet about paying fees to ensure their home was properly built.
After all, just a year ago, these building regulations were sold as a sure-fire way to avoid the construction mistakes of the past which not only resulted in Priory Hall, but also burst pipes during big freezes because they weren't buried deep enough, and a host of other structural problems.
In April last year, the former environment minister Phil Hogan announced the regulations which were designed to prevent the future re-occurrence of "poorly constructed dwellings … and structures breaching fire regulations" which were left as a "legacy of a poorly regulated housing boom".
He added: "This is all about restoring consumer confidence in construction as an industry", noting that it would give homeowners "the protection they need and deserve".
But now it appears there's a problem - construction professionals are hiking up the price of a one-off family home.
Building control inspectors have warned that the cost of fixing problems can be multiples of that charged to ensure the home is properly constructed.
They have struggled with a lack of resources in recent years, with figures from 2011 - the most recent available - showing that eight in every 10 homes were not inspected for structural defects and possible breaches of the fire safety code.
In some local authorities, there was no building control officer available. This, at a time when the building regulations were, in effect, an honour system where it was assumed homes would be properly constructed.
Since then, many homeowners saddled with expensive mortgages have learned this was far from the reality.
It's probably worth noting just how many properties will be affected if the standards are relaxed, and the protections now in place are removed.
In 2014, just over 11,000 homes were constructed. Of these, 5,171 - or 46pc - were individual units. In January this year, just over half of the 693 units completed were one-off.
While most builders are competent and do the best for their clients, not all are. Self-regulation did not work in the past, and there's no guarantee it will work in the future.