81. The Government has taken significant steps
to address environmental concerns since our last report into housing.
In particular, the zero carbon target is hugely ambitious, offering
the potential to forge ahead with the development of community
energy systems; while considerable thought has been given to the
provision of sustainable infrastructure for new developments,
one of our previous major concerns. However, some of the fundamental
problems our predecessor Committee first identified in 2005 continue
to afflict Government policy-making. There is a continued and
worrying lack of ambition and rigour in the enforcement of mandatory
sustainability standards to which new homes should be built. There
may be an over-reliance on market forces to raise standards (through
consumer choice of sustainable houses) and provide infrastructure
(through the zero carbon regulation and other levies on developers),
and there is a risk that the anticipated gains will not be realised.
In addition, there is pressure on the local planning system to
make land available for new housing to meet Government targets.
82. In addition to these, there are a variety
of new problems brought about by a serious downturn, not just
in the UK housing market, but in the global economy. In
the light of the dramatic financial events of the last few weeks,
we recommend that the Government revisits the extent to which
a target of 3 million new homes by 2020 is realistic and viable.
In revising its targets, the Government should not seek to water
down its environmental ambitions, but should rather seize the
opportunity to strengthen them, at the same time helping the economy
by investing in the skills and supply chains needed for a step-change
in environmental construction standards.