Government Housing Minister Brandon Lewis issued new starter homes design guidance on 27 March 2015 (Starter Homes Design).  The government’s Design Advisory Panel put together exemplar schemes that developers and authorities can use when developing new starter homes in their area.

Under the England only Government scheme, the new starter homes will be available to first-time buyers with a 20% discount.  The homes would be built on brownfield public and commercial sites no longer needed for industrial or commercial use.   The homes are likely to be exempt from some levys, obligations and aspects of the building regulations, which has drawn widespread criticism.

According to an article in The Guardian, “The Tories’ new design guide backs tiny, unliveable, backward-looking homes”.   There is “a fundamental disinterest” in what the houses are like inside and how practical it is for different sorts of households is to live in them. The authors seem to have concentrated on what a house looks like from the street.

Architect Sam Jacob also said the selected schemes paid too much attention to nostalgia:

“It’s a real shame to have drawn examples from such a small self-interested pool. If this is trying to set the bar for good design, then it’s an opportunity missed as it’s just a stylistic pattern book rather than a real investigation into what might make good homes. Though I’m sure it will go down well with the volume house builders.” Building Online

RIBA, the architects’ professional association, has issued a press release backed by RIBA President Stephen Hodder and the Landscape Institute’s Noel Farrer, both of whom were on the design panel.  This expresses dissatisfaction with the published guide.

“People want homes that are attractive, functional and sustainable, however the use of national ‘design templates’ for starter homes could result in generic properties that don’t fit into the area in which they are being built. Well-designed homes are ones that function well and are set distinct appropriate places that can adapt to changes in the circumstances of their occupants. The design templates outlined do not address this.” RIBA press release


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