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27/03/2015

City villages: What the experts say

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Housing in London

Think-tank IPPR marked the launch of its new publication City Villages: More homes, better communities at the Royal Institute of British Architects on Tuesday (March 24) with a panel discussion loking at whether city villages are the answer to London's housing shortage. We've given an overview in our news section, but here's a little more detail about what the panellists said.

Lord Richard Rogers

Lord Rogers was formerly chair of the Urban Task Force and has advised two London mayors on architecture and urbanism

Noting that we are building the fewest number of houses since the 1920s, Lord Rogers highlighted the need to build new housing within our cities. This, he said, should take the form of 'new towns' within existing city spaces. Densification and prioritising development on brownfield land provide a route towards developing "compact' cities. In London alone there are 600 high streets; integrating a further 100 homes into each of these high street environments would along yield some 60,000 new homes with minimal impact.

"Barcelona is the best example of city regeneration," he said. "It's beautiful and the densest city in Europe, even though it doesn't really go above eight storeys."

"You could build a whole new town in Croydon because there's so much brownfield land and theres no density in the centre of town"

"You could build a whole new town in Croydon because there's so much brownfield land and there's no density in the centre of town."

"In every other Western city that I have been it has everything [masterplanning, land assembly] done by the local authority, and the developer comes in after. In England we call in the developer to do this and, of course, their interests are very different. Therefore, we now have the worst housing in Western Europe."

Lord Richard Rogers’ prescription for regeneration of London’s town centres:

- Use brownfield before green belt to build sustainable new towns and cities

- Develop from the centre outwards

- Build strong transport infrastructure

- Empower cities and regions to plan for their own future

- Use a mix of developers of different sizes, including private developers, local authorities, housing associations and self-build.


Lord Andrew Adonis

Lord Adonis is the current Labour shadow infrastructure minister and a former minister of state for transport

"Everyone agrees we need to significantly develop within the city. And not just through the existing planning system, but systematically planning new villages. There are very big opportunities for major new village developments. Crossrail 2, for example, needs to be planned as a housing, regeneration and transport project from the start. The other area is the regeneration of housing estates. There are 150 estates or more than 50 units in Islington alone, and more than a third of the land is publicly owned. In Southwark, 43 per cent of the land is publicly owned.

"There could be as many as 3,500 housing estates of a reasonable size across London. A big issue is how they can be systematically regenerated. About 50 have been done over the years. It could go very significantly further. It could be more social housing but accommodate for existing tenants and a big increase in numbers of units, too. The 50 schemes have an average of double the number of units. It requires effective partnership issues. Treating tenants fairly - if possible, just one move rather than two moves so the difficult early experiences are not repeated. And not just creating more homes for the better off, but mixed developmen including the private rented sector and intermediate sector."

"I think we should end right-to-buy discounts. They are completely unjustifiable. People should be able to buy but at a realistic price"

"I think we should end right-to-buy discounts. They are completely unjustifiable. People should be able to buy but at a realistic price."

"Collaboration and engagement [with communities] has to be for real from the very beginning of the process. It takes a long time for schemes to mature. We do need continuity of leadership. A real problem is discontintuity of leadership. It's a real problem at local authorities. Housing associations tend to have continuity of leadership. Promises have to be delivered. You need to be careful about the promises you make at the outset but they have to be delivered."

"There’s now a clear sense of national crisis. In my experience of dealing with these issues there comes a point where after relentlessly saying there’s a crisis and things need to happen and putting things in place. Things do actually happen. If this were to scale up. It might in fact scale up much more rapidly than people think is possible. Then the learning from these early projects and the expertise that’s built up becomes hugely important because that will need to be leveraged."


Rachel Fisher

Head of policy (delivering great homes), National Housing Federation

"The case has been so comprehensively made that there’s nothing to disagree with. Or is there? What’s the idea of a village? The image in your heads? A little bit bucolic? A ltitle bit twee? Parcohial and exclusive? To go back to a time when villages were home to everyone you have to go a long way back. We also have the term 'estates' - sink estates, great estates. This [the city villages idea] is riddled with a very English kind of class-coded thinking. The drive to form the debate in these terms is very similar to the desire to call new towns 'garden cities'. It's steeped in sepia tones and it's all very ‘nice’."

"Densification of existing estates is an obvious choice because there really isn't much else to build on. None of those projects have been without controversy. We need a debate about how we use public resources. The reason so many projects coe under fire is because of a failure to think from the perspective of local people. What would they want to change? Starting with an existing place is messy because people are very vocal about their opinions. Neighbourhood planning has potential to be truly transformative in terms of how people engage with their neighbourhoods. But how do we make sure places work for the have-nots as well as the haves?"

"We are in danger of London becoming an incredibly boring place to live because all the interesting people are being priced out"

"[Responding to a question about the likelihood that London's population will reach a 'tipping point' and then start to shrink] What would be the tipping points be to make London not grow? I think the point to make is in terms of how many homes we need to build. We don’t have enough homes for the people that are already here. We need also to think about who we are losing. What does the out migration look like? There are articles about young professionals moving back to their university cities. We are in danger of London becoming an incredibly boring place to live because all the interesting people are being priced out."

"I remain unconvinced about land value tax... But we do have a problem about public investment leading to private gain."

"Should we end right-to-buy? This is a policy that absolutely needs serious thinking and serious reform. There’s no way that housing assocaitions could replace properties they are losing based on the current policy. You only have to live there for three years [to qualify to purchase your home at a discounted rate]. That’s like winning the lottery twice. This is a problem of an incredibly constrained supply. We don’t have enough homes, full stop."


Steve Bullock

Mayor of Lewisham

"London’s greatest challenge isn’t actually the rise in the population - it's the inequality we have in London, and you see that most clearly in the relation to houses. We have the most expensive housing in Western Europe at a time when incomes are falling and house prices are rising. This amazing city has very clearly the roots of a very significant downturn if we don’t address these issues."

"Beneath the stats are real people - people who told us their stories about living in temporary accommodation miles from schools and jobs."

"If we don’t learn the lessons of the past we will simply create more places where there are homes grouped together that aren’t communities"

"We need to build more homes and quickly and that’s right. But if we don’t learn the lessons of the past we will simply create more places where there are homes grouped together that aren’t communities."

"We are dealing with the problems of London's unique situation. How do we do that difficult thing with communities? We just have to remember that we cannot start cold. Communities have to have capacity. Long before we talk about the scheme we have got to be convinced of the ability for residents of that area to actually organise for themselves and engage."

"Leaders of local authorities and their partners have worked really hard to find ways of doing developments that avoid issues around gentrification. What we have to do is be very clear at the start of these processes about what we are trying to achieve and resist the temptation to get sucked into discussions with developers too soon. We need to get the masterplan sorted out and then find developers who understand what we are trying to do. The developers I have talked to who I hope to be working with in the future are all ones who get that."

"If you haven't got housing at social levels there will be jobs that can’t get filled. It might be fine for a few years but before long you will have communities that simply do not work. There are developers and housing associations who get that. But can we get them and the land together?"


Lord Robert (Bob) Kerslake

Former head of the civil service, permanent secretary to the DCLG, chair of the Peabody Trust

"My personal view is that we need to do more than double the supply of housing in London. London needs a step change in supply. We face the housing problem nationally, but on a massively bigger scale."

"The essays [in City Villages] paint an inviting picture about what we can achieve through city villages. It's an exciting idea. But a few words of caution. This isn’t about city villages or new towns or new suburbs. We won’t deal with the [housing] needs through city villages. We need to do all of the other awkwardly difficult things like look at new towns, green belt, infrastructure. Infrastructure is critical. These are not self-sustaining places. These are residential. The transport has to work. People work all over London and the transport has to allow them to do that."

"We require new kinds of leadership, some of which we have lost over time. The number of people who have been there and done it are fewer than you would imagine"

"The side point I would make is this is bloody hard to do. To do this we require new kinds of leadership, some of which we have lost over time. Placemaking is not about physical buildings. The number of people who have been there and done it are fewer than you would imagine. London cannot solve its housing issues without a new level of devolution. London is constrained from being a fantastic city [by the fact that its leaders don’t have the powers to raise money and push through the policies the city needs]. There needs to be a radical new solution. To what extent could we empower London to do things diferent. Could you reform revenue? Serious devolution will involve income responsibilities, as well as spending responsibilities."

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