CABE calls for radical overhaul of housing standards

There should be a new, simpler standards framework for housing in return for a set of minimum national design standards for all new homes, according to a report by the Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment (CABE).

Called Simpler and better: housing design in everyone’s interest, the report argues that smarter regulation would give consumers a guarantee that homes and neighbourhoods are well designed everywhere.

The current mix of standards required by building regulations, planning policy and funders desperately needs rationalisation, says CABE, and proposes replacing current legislation with a single set of clear requirements to which developments are designed, judged and developed through the planning system, and specifically identifying those that should be delivered through the building regulations.

Richard Simmons, CABE chief executive, points out that the maxim of the day is doing more with less, not simply doing less. “We all recognise that the current mix of standards is complicated, overlapping and inefficient. The industry needs a consistent set of standards – and the consumer and the community a guarantee of homes that are good enough."


  • CABE publications about housing standards include:
  • Simpler and better: housing design in everyone's interest
  • Is it too much to believe that all new homes can be good enough everywhere?
  • Improving the design of new housing: what role for standards?
  • Setting out CABE's emerging position on housing standards.
  • Housing standards: evidence and research
  • Technical papers about housing and space standards in the past, present and future.


Minimum design standards for housing should clarify exactly what is required to meet environmental commitments and the basic needs of communities and residents. This would establish the basis upon which local authorities and communities can decide what works for their area, but below which developers would not be able to go.

What does the new report contain?

Simpler and better: housing design in everyone’s interest draws on expert workshops run by CABE to explore the practical action and policy changes needed to transform housing design quality. Getting better design for new homes and the neighbourhoods in which they sit has been one of the more intractable challenges faced by government. The report analyses why the market alone is unlikely to deliver good housing design consistently in Britain. This is a combination of the culture and economics of housing provision and the particular ways in which town planning works and the industry is structured and financed.

The report also makes the point that using good architects drives up standards, but too few housebuilders employ this kind of talent or commission it routinely. It argues that publicly funded projects could require the selection of architects by competition.