Unsupported browser

For a better experience please update your browser to its latest version.

Your browser appears to have cookies disabled. For the best experience of this website, please enable cookies in your browser

We'll assume we have your consent to use cookies, for example so you won't need to log in each time you visit our site.
Learn more

Architects criticise social housing green paper as ‘more of the same’

10.darbishireplace nickkane
  • 1 Comment

Architects have criticised the government’s new social housing green paper as ‘more of the same’ after it failed to commit any new funding for building council homes

The document, published yesterday, was billed as a ‘fundamental shift’ in the state’s approach to social housing and proposed a range of measures, including improving the design quality of social rented properties.

Launching the paper, housing secretary James Brokenshire said the government must challenge the false assumptions that ‘people in social housing don’t deserve or demand quality customer service or good design.’ 

But while welcoming the emphasis on design quality, architects have echoed criticism from the wider social rented sector on the absence of any new cash for building homes.

RIBA president Ben Derbyshire branded the paper ‘dissappointing’, adding it did not do nearly enough to tackle the housing crisis and the severe shortage of affordable housing.

‘We have over one million people on waiting lists and up to 60,000 households are declared homeless and in immediate need of a place to live each year. This is a national disgrace and the only way for us to tackle the problem is for the state to play a more active role.

‘For too long the UK’s housing crisis has blighted our country whilst governments fail to grasp the severity of the situation. The blunt truth is that while this has been sold as a new deal, it seems to be more of the same.’

Chris Romer Lee of Studio Octopi also criticised the lack of funding for new homes. ‘There’s no extra government money for local authorities to build council homes and absolutely no mention of lifting the borrowing cap for councils,’ he said. 

Homelessness charity Shelter’s chief executive Polly Neate said that the green paper was ‘full of warm words but doesn’t commit a single extra penny towards building the social homes needed by the 1.2 million people on the waiting list.’

Measures proposed in the green paper include league tables for housing associations, enabling tenants to gradually purchase their own home through shared ownership, as well as ‘sharper teeth’ for the regulator of social housing.

A section titled ‘promoting good design’ outlined how residents were concerned that the design and quality standards of new homes were being ‘compromised to reduce costs’.

It read: ‘In some cases, developments have separate entrances for social and private residents. In others, social housing can be too easily identified, for example through different coloured front doors to private properties on mixed tenure estates.’

The report singled out Níall McLaughlin Architects’ Stirling Prize-shortlisted scheme in Whitechapel (pictured) as a good example of design in the social rented sector.

Brokenshire said: ‘Providing quality and fair social housing is a priority for this government. Our green paper offers a landmark opportunity for major reform to improve fairness, quality and safety to residents living in social housing across the country.’

In September, Brokenshire’s predecessor, Sajid Javid, said the social housing green paper would be the ’‘most substantial report of its kind for a generation’. 

Key proposals 

Steps to speed up the complaints process and improving dispute resolution 

  • The introduction of performance indicators and new league tables for housing associations
  • Reforms to make it easier for tenants to buy their own homes, such as allowing them to purchase as little as 1% of their property each year through shared ownership.
  • Giving the regulator of social housing ‘sharper teeth’ to intervene and ensure social homes are well managed and of decent quality.
  • Permitting councils to ‘continue to have choice’ over their use of fixed-term tenancies
  • A review of social housing regulation, with a call for evidence launched today on the current regulatory framework   
  • 1 Comment

Readers' comments (1)

  • While the Government's Social Housing Green Paper and the consultation it launches are welcome and raise important questions for resolution, they serve as yet another reminder of the many fundamental issues which need to be resolved. There are issues about the supply of houses relative to need, about the costs of rented accommodation, about the price of owned accommodation, about the scale of the subsidy the taxpayer should give to rents, and whether the tax payer should subsidise the acquisition of valuable assets by those who live in them. That's just for starters. Some of the questions posed in the Green Paper cannot really be answered without disentangling these issues.
    The fundamental questions relate to whether the provision of housing relates to a wider social purpose, such as enabling job mobility at a change of major economic change or making sure everyone has somewhere to live, which are quite different to aiming to transfer wealth through the tax system and council budgets from those possessing housing assets to those who do not. The figures produced by the BBC on council buy-backs of Right to Buy houses they had earlier sold look shocking and suggest a more fundamental rethink is needed of a policy that does nothing to increase supply.
    We do not even have a proper understanding yet as to the reasons for the housing shortage. On the one hand there are the raw statistics about house building and population growth which provide one answer, but on the other there is the issue of unused space and the incentives, though the tax system and the side effects of loose monetary policy, that have been given to own property space not actually strictly needed as housing but as a vehicle for savings. So we still wait for the fundamental review from the government. And some real cash now to deal with the immediate emergency.
    Architects have a central role in designing social housing which works both for residents, as the Government rightly emphasises, but also for society as a whole. But until enough resources to make a difference are made available either through central government expenditure or by further increasing local authority borrowing capacity, we will not be able to turn aspiration into reality.
    David Green
    Belsize Architects

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

Have your say

You must sign in to make a comment

Please remember that the submission of any material is governed by our Terms and Conditions and by submitting material you confirm your agreement to these Terms and Conditions.

Links may be included in your comments but HTML is not permitted.