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11/01/2016

Increasing London housing density could provide 54,000 to 360,000 homes – report

Words: Laura Edgar

Increasing the density of some of London’s local authority housing estates could contribute to meeting London’s housing need, according to a report.

Completing London’s Streets (pdf), by Savills, a real estate services provider, suggests that the updating of these estates can be done in a way that creates many more homes, a “significantly improved living environment” for existing and future residents as well as better value for local authorities.

This, says Savills, would be achieved by rebuilding estates in a street-based pattern.

Completing London’s Streets proposes a new ‘Complete Streets’ model with estate renewal taking the form of “high-quality, integrated and permeable urban streetscapes”.

Yolande Barnes, Savills research director who led the analysis, explained that the ‘Complete Streets’ model consisted of terraced houses, mid-rise mansion blocks and refurbished towers. This, she added, would “actually costs less to build than new high-mass blocks in open space”.

Savills estimates that approximately 1,750 hectares of London’s 8,500 hectares of local authority housing estates might be capable of this type of regeneration, providing between 190,000 and 500,000 homes.

“This represents an increase of between 54,000 and 360,000 homes,” says the report.

This would be within existing housing estates with Savills analysis “assuming that every existing resident would be re-housed under the same terms on the new streets”.

Had the housing estates, built at a time when London was depopulating in the 1960s and 1970s, been built at the same density as the report suggests, they would house a further 480,000 households.

The report contends that low density has not resulted in higher-quality places and that the estates are constructed in such a way they are “cut off and poorly integrated” with the rest of London.

Savills compares this model with a ‘Contemporary Model’ that replaces existing stock with new block and towers in a similar layout but at higher density, considering six housing estates in the capital.

The report states this doesn’t improve the neighbourhood or sense of place.

On the other hand, the ‘Complete Streets’ model would, Barnes said, “create a better, more desirable place to live and a better asset for the local authority or housing association land owners than contemporary regeneration practices”.

The report, Barnes concluded, “challenges the housing industry to think differently about development, estate renewal and estate regeneration in order to improve life chances for many of London’s residents and to create a sustainable income for local authorities”.

The report comes following Prime Minister David Cameron’s pledge to transform 100 housing estates in Britain, with a £140 million fund to start the work. 

Image credit | iStock

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