It shouldn't really come as much of surprise, but it looks as though the zero-carbon target for new housing is about to be abandoned wholesale, with the news that there will now be an exemption for smaller sites from having to even meet allowable solutions.
Instead, the target will be to meet the current building regs. Which isn't a target as such at all - it's what everyone has had to do all along. These building regs may be upgraded a little in 2016, but for now all bets are off. In other words, we might just as well have not bothered with the whole edifice that became the Code for Sustainable Homes and, with it, the 2016 zero-carbon building target.
The rationale for all this is that we are even more desperately short of housing than we were in 2007 when the scheme was launched and that it would somehow be against everyone's interest to insist on higher building standards because they cost more. In other words, the need for cheap new housing trumps our longer-term concerns about rising fuel prices and reducing carbon emissions.
Once again, it's a blatant example of how political the housing standards debate has become. The growth monkeys have won this particular battle. Their battle cry is "More houses, more units, more, more, more." Never mind if they are any good or not, or whether people actually want them, nothing must stand in the way of builders churning out maximum numbers. And zero-carbon targets are, frankly, in the way.
The shrinking violets, the liberals and the greens, have had to take a back seat. Their vision of better quality housing is, for the time being, shredded. On the surface, it appears to be a rout, but it's not quite that simple. For a start, the zero-carbon target was always indefensible. You simply can't build a zero-carbon house and there is no point trying to pretend that you can. For that, Yvette Cooper and friends (who launched the idea) deserve a round of brickbats. Once you go down the road of allowable solutions and offsetting, you might just as well admit you are wasting your time. Which they didn't.
However, many of the design ideas incorporated into the Code were and are very sound and we will have to wave goodbye to them for a while, although some have made it through to the building regs over the course of the past eight years.
The fact is that building better homes does cost more, but the bulk of this cost is met by the landowner who sells the plots in the first place. If the cost of building house X goes up by £15,000, then the purchase price of the plot it stands on falls by a similar amount, so that neither the housebuilder nor the purchaser pays any more that they would have done.
So who really benefits by this shredding of these targets? Not the housebuilders, not the house buyers, but the landowners. It also very doubtful that keeping these targets would have done anything to dampen the rate of new housebuilding. But that's politics for you.
Incidentally, the text of the announcement which is published today is a fantastic example of how political-speak completely turns common sense on its head: