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KATHERINE SHONFIELD

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Those 4.4 (or is it 5.5?) million new homes are proving a far more effective Millennial bogeyman than any dome or tower could be. If it is a Millennial characteristic that millions of people start blindly believing something which runs counter to the evidence of both their rationality and their senses, then the apparently universal acceptance of this ever- burgeoning figure is a humdinger of a characteristic.

The sleight of hand with which the housebuilders' lobby has established an automatic connection between the 4.4 million and jerry-built, single family houses, on virgin land surrounding existing town and city suburbs, is awe-inspiring - and disastrous. The truth is that there is no increase in population, only in 'households'; in other words, a reduction in the number of families.

The family forms the most private of the elements which make up society. These new singleton households, made up of divorcees, older people outliving partners and the young delaying marriage, will be in desperate need of public life: the defining characteristic of the inner city. Instead of reducing this to a storage problem, architects must develop and imagine the urban, public lives that the great majority of such people enjoy living. We should be centre stage in this debate.

This is a case of the Emperor's New Homes - and the Emperor is the commercial housebuilding industry.

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