English | Cymraeg Tel: 029 2076 5760 Connect: Twitter

Affordable housing review: quality standards

The panel was asked to provide ‘advice on whether there should be changes to the standards governing the design and quality of affordable housing’ and to ‘evaluate the impact of moving to deliver zero carbon homes by 2020’.

Key recommendations

  • Welsh Government should develop new consolidated and simplified standards for new build grant funded and S106 homes. The new standards should be easier to use and should not have conflicting requirements. The new standards should concentrate on minimum space standards including storage inside and outside.
  • Welsh Government should introduce a requirement for all new affordable homes to be near zero carbon / EPC ‘A’ using a fabric first approach from 2021, supplemented by technology (renewables) if required.
  • Welsh Government should set a longer term goal by 2025 at the latest to have the same standards for all homes irrespective of tenure.


As things stand, all grant-funded new and refurbished homes in Wales built by social landlords have to meet standards in Development Quality Requirements (DQR) that are above building regulations.

DQR includes the Lifetime Homes standards to meet the changing needs of residents including wider doors, accessible ground floor shower room and additional space for wheelchair users to move around the home. It does not have an energy performance standard beyond that in the building regulations.

The EU energy performance directive requires member states to draw up plans for all new buildings to be of a ‘nearly zero energy standard by 2020’ and the UK Government’s Committee on Climate Change has said that ‘buildings constructed now should not require retrofit in 15 years’ time’ and should be highly energy efficient with low-carbon heating from the start’.


The panel heard evidence that current standards are too prescriptive, with the mandatory requirement for Lifetime Homes and downstairs shower room seen as especially onerous. Downstairs space adaptable for future needs of occupiers and available as storage was seen as a better option.

There was acceptance that housebuilding must change and become more energy efficient to meet the challenge of climate change. However, the panel says it has ‘not seen any evidence that suggests that Wales (or any part of the UK) would be able to move towards near zero carbon by 2020’.

A new framework

The specific requirements of Lifetime Homes should be replaced by mandatory minimum space and storage requirements and designed to support ease of future adaptation (eg non-load bearing internal walls that can be moved).

Some new housing provided to housing associations via Section 106 is not built to the same space standard as social housing and falls short of meeting the needs of tenants. The panel says local authorities would benefit from new national planning policy to require the same standards.

After hearing all the evidence on moving to near zero carbon, the panel concluded that this will take some time and that achieving it by 2020 is ‘unrealistic and unachievable’ and would result in fewer homes being built.

However, it says there is nothing to stop a move to near zero or Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) A rating over a longer period. This should apply to all affordable homes from 2021 and all homes irrespective of tenure by 2025.

Sign up to our email newsletter

Every two months we'll email you a summary of the latest news & articles on the WHQ website. Better still, if you're a fully paid up magazine subscriber, you'll get access to the latest members-only articles as well.

Sign up for the email newsletter »

Looking to advertise in our magazine?

Advertising and sponsored features are a great way to raise your profile with our readership of housing and regeneration decision makers in Wales.

Find out more »