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Revealed: 10 winning solutions to London's housing crisis


dRMM, HTA, Baca, and Pitman Tozer are among the winners in New London Architecture’s (NLA) international competition to find solutions to the capital’s housing crisis

Organised in collaboration with the Mayor of London, the competition attracted more than 200 entries from 16 different countries with ideas ranging from living on the Thames to the creation of a new mega-city.

Chosen from an initial shortlist of 100, the ten winners include housing experts HTA Design, Manser Medal winners Pitman Tozer, and timber specialists dRMM.

The winning ideas will be presented to the Greater London Authority which will investigate how the ideas could be applied to real sites in the city.

Richard Blakeway, Deputy Mayor for Housing, Land and Property said: ‘We asked for innovative and ambitious ideas, and we were certainly not disappointed. The range and sheer number of well-considered and imaginative entries was truly impressive.

‘Some ideas were eye-catchingly radical – such as a floating neighbourhood transforming sites on the Thames. Others were simple yet brilliant – such as redefining the index of public transport accessibility (PTAL).

‘Without a doubt, the entries showcase some exciting ways to challenge the traditional approach to house building and we look forward to pursuing the ideas set out by winning entries in discussions here at City Hall.’

NLA chairman Peter Murray, added: ‘The way we are delivery new homes today just isn’t working. London is only able to build half the number it needs each year. This competition shows how a bit of creativity, entrepreneurship and new thinking can help to fill that gap.’

The winners

The Urban Darning Project by Patrick J.A. Massey


Employing the sewing technique for repairing holes or worn areas in fabric, The Urban Darning Project aims to encourage small residential developments in central London to ‘fill-in the gaps’ of the urban fabric. Each London borough commissions a team of planners and architects to work collaboratively to produce a strategic report, which not only identifies desirable sites for development, but crucially produces a set of schematic annotated drawings for each site showing the nature and scale of development desired by the local authority. The report will focus on extension, infill and end condition sites which have the potential to be developed into additional residential units. Attaching a set of approved schematic drawings to a site will significantly reduce the risk of not obtaining planning permission, as the site has already effectively had an outline planning analysis, and will therefore act as a catalyst for development.

Housing over public assets by Bill Price, WSP | Parsons Brinckerhoff


There is room for 630,000 new homes in London by building apartments above public buildings, such as hospitals, schools and libraries. This would comfortably meet the projected 488,000 homes that will be needed in the capital in the next decade whilst simultaneously improving public facilities. To achieve this, the private sector would refurbish or fully rebuild a hospital, library or school – paid for by adding several floors of apartments above the new facility that could be rented or sold. The idea has examples, existing expertise and public support from Londoners keen to remain in the city.

Supurbia by HTA Design


Supurbia is a strategy for intensifying London’s suburbs that balances their inherent advantages with higher density and amenity value. Its approach is twofold: redeveloping the local main streets and parades as mixed-use places with increased housing and amenity provision; and allowing owner-occupiers of semi-detached homes to develop their land, creating rich diversities of housing. The strategy will bring together local authorities and communities to plan appropriate developments, and allow homeowners to release equity in their land for home improvements. It will also reduce reliance on mainstream developers to ease the housing crisis, providing an approach that is more adaptable to communities’ needs. Assuming a mere doubling of density per plot, this realises 16,800 new homes per year, or 40 per cent of London’s projected housing need for the next 20 years.

Intimate Infrastructures by Natasha Reid Design


In response to the drastic urban changes occurring in east London, an alternative to more dominant forms of volume housebuilding is proposed, which provides solutions for both private renters in the form of purpose built shared homes, as well as considering the needs of local communities vulnerable to displacement. The project addresses a ‘missing typology’ of purpose-built shared housing to meet the demand of private renters in the immediate term, while also accommodating larger family homes within a framework that focuses on qualities of place and mixing tenures. New massproduced, modular ‘shared houses’ are proposed as standardised components, to speed up delivery, reduce construction costs and regulate minimum levels of space standards. Based on the London pattern of streets and squares, permanent infrastructure would be provided at ground level in the form of a courtyard and terraces townhouses, to embed more permanent groups into the city fabric.

Buoyant Starts by Floating Homes with Baca Architects


Our idea addresses the housing crisis in Greater London by providing high quality prefabricated floating homes, at an affordable price, for the unused water space of the capital. There are approximately 50 linear miles of rivers and canals forming the waterways network of the Greater London area, and an additional 150 hectares of developable waterspace in the city’s docks, marinas, and basins that we call ‘bluespace’ or ‘bluefield’ sites. Currently underused, this bluespace has the potential to deliver as many as 7,500 prefabricated floating starter homes with minimal disruption to existing communities. ‘Generation Rent’ becomes ‘Generation Float’.

Investing in London’s Future by Learning from its Past by David Kroll

The basic principles of this idea draw on a well-known system of housing development from London’s past - the leasehold system. Separating the cost of housing as a physical product from land costs would make it more affordable to build and buy houses. Suitable public land could be released to build housing, but it would not be sold off to private developers. Instead, it would remain in public ownership. What is being privately contracted out is only the planning and construction of the buildings. The leasehold to the houses or flats can then be sold for the amount that it actually costs to develop and build them, which is affordable to most Londoners. Those who purchase the dwellings would then pay an additional, stable ‘ground rent’ for the land. The level of such a rent can be set strategically and with social sustainability in mind. The ground rent could be smaller, for example, for young families who are first-time buyers.

Mega Planning, Beyond 2050 – MegaPlan for a MegaCity by GL Hearn part of Capita


By 2050, London’s population growth will make it western Europe’s first MegaCity, and mega planning is required to implement a radical step change in housing delivery. Assuming densification alone will not solve London’s long-term requirement for new homes, our MegaPlan looks beyond this and seeks to maximise potential land supply across ‘Edge Land’ – the inner belt running from the inner London Green Belt to the M25. Green Belt land within the M25 (including London) totals 86,000 hectares. Over three quarters of Edge Land is therefore designated as Green Belt, and almost one third of this land is covered by primary environmental, landscape or heritage designations. In order to meet the shortfall in housing, less than four per cent of Edge Land would need to be released from the Green Belt. This approach would be underpinned by a strategic Green Belt review, to positively plan for a sustainable pattern of growth.

ATAL Opportunity Areas by THE ATAL TEAM including CZWG


ATAL ‘Active Transport Accessibility Level’ is our concept for unlocking housing density in parts of London with poor public transport provision. The London Plan limits housing density across London based on the area’s Public Transport Accessibility Level (PTAL). This makes sense from a public transport led sustainability perspective, but it leaves large swathes of London where higher densities cannot be realised, thereby supressing the provision of new homes. By shifting the focus from ‘transport accessibility’ to ‘active transport’, we can improve accessibility from these parts of London to enable a higher yet moderate housing density to unlock new supply. Achieving a high ATAL will allow for a doubling of development density in over half of London, subject to the provision of high quality walking and cycling infrastructure. Housebuilders will be encouraged to bring forward development through the GLA designating ‘ATAL Opportunity Areas’, with planning incentives stimulating the development of these areas.

Making more with less: unlocking leftover land for generation rent by Pitman Tozer, LB Enfield and Naked House

Making more with less: unlocking leftover land for generation rent by Pitman Tozer, LB Enfield and Naked House

Naked House is a new generation not-for-profit housing provider that unlocks the vast array of small, under-used council-owned sites throughout London to build genuinely affordable homes for those on intermediate incomes. Individually, these sites may be insignificant, but taken together, they can help solve London’s intermediate housing shortage. Naked House acts as developer, taking on the developer risk and managing the process throughout, allowing us to jump many of the barriers to such schemes and provide a scalable model. The council propose to realise long-term value through aground rent linked to the value of the land (and so any uplift in value is shared), the guaranteed provision of permanently affordable intermediate housing (a resale covenant locks in affordability for perpetuity), additional council tax receipts, etc. Naked House will unlock the potential of small infill sites across London, to provide as many as 110,000 fully-affordable customisable homes by 2025.

Wood Blocks by dRMM Architects


A new shell and core housing typology should be used to build homes, adapting a tried and tested development model from office buildings. It ‘scales up’ the growing appetite for self-build as a more affordable typology and as way of creating the home Londoners really want. Shell and core provides ‘ready to camp in’ housing: a structural, weatherproof, thermally- and acoustically-insulated shell which you can then partition and fit-out however you want. Excluding internal fit-outs could reduce the cost (to the developer/house-builder) of building new homes by 40 per cent, and the duration of construction by 25 per cent – delivering faster, cheaper housing.

All 100 shortlisted schemes will go on display at the Building Centre from 15 October to 17 December.


Readers' comments (4)

  • This is brilliant stuff and a credit to all involved. fortunately the ideas are not mutually exclusive and could be adopted over different time frames. All power to the GLA (and NLA) elbows. At last initiatives that are proactive and relevant, quite unlike the Prime Minister's hopeless rehash of failed policies last week, which prompted former civil service chief Bob Kerslake to describe the language used as 'Orwellian'.

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  • I can't see how any of these solutions solve the housing crisis without eating into greenbelt or building above public buildings (imagine the logistics and costs!) The minimum space standards and having to build 50 sqm is the problem. Most people trying to get their first property don't need 50 sqm. When buildings are built and sold by the sqm, space costs. Make starter flats 30 sqm of very well designed space instead of 50 sqm of badly designed space and the costs are reduced by 40% and there are more properties available to buy, simple! I am not, by the way, implying that families live in 30 sqm, singles and couples can however and 30 sqm is affordable and environmentally efficient. There will then be more larger properties available for families. On top of this CIL / S106 / affordable housing contributions, all taxes added by the government only add to housing costs and affordability, scrap them on starter flats under 30 sqm and amend the minimum space standards!

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  • A London solution to a London problem.
    Wrong question.
    The correct solution is of course to move businesses and housing out of London, and reduce the load on an over-stressed city.
    London's infrastructure cannot cope at present, why make the problem larger.
    How much water can be supplied to London
    What is the sewer capacity
    How much oxygen is in the air
    How many trees are needed to provide this oxygen
    How much food can be delivered daily.
    How many tube and train spaces can be provided to transport folks to and from work.
    How much foreign-investor housing is required to over-saturate the market and burst the London housing bubble and bring prices back to sensibility.

    If London government actually wants more housing, they would remove Section 106, community infrastructure levies and other secret taxes on new development.
    However if government want to actually solve London's problems, they would reduce London's population by bringing back regional support grants, tax-breaks and a better national transportation plan -particularly and East-West strategy and decent routes to coastal export harbours *, to encourage people to move out into the regions and a better life.
    * and not a half-baked HS2 puffing billy centred on London.

    Actually if they moved Westminster out of London 150 miles northwards, that might trigger things. (oh, and the real BBC as well)

    -personal view

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  • Spot on comment in Alexander's 2nd para. If you want stimulate an activity, you don't have punishing taxes associated with it!!!

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