There are potentially imaginative and successful solutions to the housing crisis, from capping rent to encouraging architects to be socially and politically active. We heard from a host of experts. In her lecture, Mexican architect Tatiana Bilbao explored how social housing built abroad could influence the UK, while speakers at the Psychology of Home debate stressed the importance of quality even in the midst of a crisis. We’ve listed some of the best solutions to the housing crisis.
• Building co-operatively owned estates would give traditional renters a way into property ownership, as well as reducing the prestige of the “cult of property” which fetishizes traditional home ownership, argued Justin McGuirk.
• Tom Holbrook, director of 5th Studio, proposed that architects need to become more socially active, lobbying Parliament for higher housing standards, to support the ideas they are already coming up with for housing.
• Moving into the greenbelt to extend suburbs or build new towns, and releasing more brownfield sites (abandoned or unused sites) for development, argued Chris Walker.
• Shaun Spiers, Chief Executive of the Campaign to Protect Rural Britain, suggested that, alternatively, further inner-city densification in London is possible, and would avoid the possibility of creating suburban slums.
• Changes in policy, such as: caps on rents and land values, a land value tax on undeveloped land, an empty homes tax, or auctioning off of long term empty homes, said designer and critic Edwin Heathcote.
• Building better quality housing in which people can emotionally invest; this involves not only the house itself, but the surrounding green environment, public spaces to encourage community growth, and local infrastructure such as amenities and transport links. This would move emphasis away from the fashion for living as close to central London as possible and encourage people to move further out where there is more space. This point was put forward by academic Nicola Dempsey, developer Roger Zogolovitch (of Solidspace) and Robert Adam. It was also proposed by architects Winy Maas and Tatiana Bilbao at their lectures.
• Custom-built homes which can be erected rapidly, are affordable, and personally customisable by prospective owners, such as MyHouse by Mae Architects (pictured), suggested Alex Ely of the firm.
• Writer Lynsey Hanley proposed a return to pre-fabricated buildings similar to those built in response to the post-WWII housing crisis, many of which are still standing today, despite originally being quick solutions.
• Identifying the variety of renters and their needs, and being imaginative about spaces which could be used: Dallas Pierce Quintero have come up with a number of creative housing ideas, such as utilising spaces in vacant offices and underused car parks for short-term housing, prefabrication units on top of existing flat roof social housing, and live-work units above high street shops.
The next few years look set to be turbulent for housing. David Cameron’s announcement of his intention to extend the right-to-buy scheme in May, indicating the Tory party’s continued emphasis on home ownership dismayed some speakers, who fear it will further diminish the country’s social housing stock, while some architects were optimistic last month over the appointment of radical leftist Jeremy Corbyn as new Labour leader, hoping that it heralds the potential return of a socially responsible state in 2020.
Cameron has also recently announced his intention to scrap developer requirements for affordable housing in order to build 200,000 starter homes, a controversial move, as there are concerns that quality standards will drop significantly.
However, architects look set to take on a new role in housing, with Richard Rogers piloting his Y:Cube scheme of prefabricated houses for young homeless people in partnership with YMCA , and the enormous response to New London Architecture’s ideas competition for housing solutions, with the top ten winners set to collaborate with GLA to try and get their plans realised.