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Ministers: Design quality is ‘fundamental’ to solving the housing crisis

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Sajid Javid has said there is ‘no question’ of choosing between quality and quantity as he championed the role of good design in fixing the UK’s broken housing market

‘[Design] is not just something that’s nice to have – a bonus if you’re lucky enough to be able to afford it – but something that’s fundamental to everyone’s quality of life,’ the housing secretary said yesterday (25 April) at the government’s Design Quality Conference.

Javid and housing minister Dominic Raab said better design would help ‘win over’ both communities and persuade first-time buyers to part with their hard-earned deposits.

The ministers also urged housebuilders to embrace innovation and forge ‘closer links’ with the government to meet its target of building 300,000 homes by the mid-2020s.

To try and achieve this, the government will invest £1 billion of funding through the Home Building Fund to develop modern approaches to design and construction such as modular homes.

Design Council chief executive Sarah Weir also announced that the council had formed a ‘working partnership’ with the government’s national housing agency Homes England to promote quality design.

The two organisations have pledged to collaborate on the development of design policies – a move it is hoped will allow the housing agency to expand its design capability.

Weir said the aim was to put design at the heart of future development, adding: ‘This partnership is about collaboration and co-ordination. Not just to increase the evidence base but show how high-quality design can create lasting change which is beneficial to society.’

The central London conference – which the government said was the first ever held on design – brought together architects, housebuilders and local government leaders to discuss how good design can speed up house-building.

Speakers included RIBA president Ben Derbyshire, Berkeley Homes chairman Tony Pidgley, and alumni from the Stephen Lawrence Trust (SLT).

Lemar Whyte and Tanatswa Borerwe, both SLT alumni and architectural assistants at HTA Design, took part in a panel discussion on the importance of attracting more young people into architecture.

Whyte said that in the wake of the Grenfell fire, he had heard lots of young people talking about housing but that they needed a voice. ‘I believe young people do care,’ he said. ‘There need to be more forums and more youth panels on housing and design quality.’

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