WHAT IS THE PROBLEM?
There is a housing crisis in parts of Britain;
We are not building enough homes;
Nor are we building the types of homes in which people want to live;
89% want a normal house on a normal street;
We are instead providing too many large, often off-street, multi-storey complexes;
There is a huge risk of repeating the errors of the 1960s.
WHAT IS THE REASON?
We have divorced what gets built from what people actually want.
This is due to:
building and planning regulations;
very high land values;
little focus on long-term returns;
a contempt by some for how most wish to live.
New developments often therefore meet top-down targets rather than real people’s needs.
Communities, neighbourhoods, even landowners have lost control of what is built in this country.
The ‘market’ for new homes is broken. Many oppose new homes as they don’t like what gets built.
These problems can be fixed.
Recent moves to give communities more control via neighbourhood plans and to abandon national density targets are good but insufficient.
WHAT IS THE OPPORTUNITY?
Large areas of London are taken up by unpopular, socially segregated, low density but high rise off-street multi-storey estate.
These are correlated with poor social outcomes even when you take account of socio-economic status. Terraced houses and flats could house all the people currently resident in them and more in a manner that would be more popular and more socially mixed.
WHAT NEEDS TO CHANGE?
A London-wide programme of building and estate regeneration could deliver the homes London needs while building homes that are popular and stand the test of time.
The Mayor’s office should commission a full study of how redeveloping multi-storey estates into streets and houses could deliver the homes London needs while building areas that are popular. This is preferable to the current limited redevelopment which is delivering far too few homes at very high densities. Update: We are delighted that DCLG commissioned Savills to study this proposal.
The London Plan should remove density targets that implicitly assume higher is always best.
Planning and building regulations (nationally and in London) that are biased against conventional streets should be removed. And communities should be able to over-ride them.
There should be a London-wide right to ‘override’ local planners where what is proposed in local plans is not supported by local people. This would open up an estate redevelopment for a set period to new neighbourhood plans.
This method would create real competition where different developers could present different visions for local people to choose from.
London should set the aim to ensure that the proportion of social tenants with children living on the upper floors of multi-storey blocks falls in line with the share of private tenants.
The Mayor’s office or an institution of London-wide repute (e.g. the Evening Standard) should run a competition with a cash prize where entries:
Are high density, beautiful streets that redevelop a multi-storey estate, and
Would win local people over in a neighbourhood plan and inspire people.
The arguments for terraced streets are empirical. They rest on streets' proven popularity, efficiency and long term value-creation.
STREETS ARE MORE POPULAR with the vast majority of people over many years. In one poll, 89% wanted a house on a street. Not one single respondent wanted to live in a tower block. This is corroborated by many other surveys. Read more in chapter two of our report.
Multiple peer-reviewed studies in many countries over many years show that multi-storey housing is correlated with bad social outcomes for those living in it even when economic conditions are identical. This is particularly the case for children and the least well off. Read more in chapter three of our report.
To the landowner, long term economic returns from owning terraced housing beat those of owning multi-storey housing in all but luxury developments. This is due to lower build costs, lower financing costs, lower maintenance costs and much higher value appreciation over time. Read more in chapter six of our report.
Terraced houses can provide the homes we need to solve the housing crisis. Due to the wasted space between existing tower blocks and the inefficiencies of estate layouts, conventional terraced streets of houses and low rise flats can almost always match their population densities. Read more in chapter seven of our report.
Many post-war estates (as with this estate in South London) have a series of large buildings (correlated with low sense of community & high crime rates) and lots of 'wasted' open space leading to much lower densities than the more popular surrounding streets.
New tower blocks for old ? Spot the difference between a 1970s high rise and two 2013 ones. Density targets, building regulations, open space rules and fashion all mean that we are in danger of repeating errors of 40 years ago.
These new 'narrow front many doors' houses in Amsterdam would be almost impossible to build under the London Plan - this is crazy