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

Rogers: ‘We need to challenge the housebuilders' monopoly’

Richard Rogers has said the major housebuilders need to be challenged if the UK is to solve the housing crisis

Speaking yesterday at the launch of his practice’s budget, modular Y:Cube scheme in Mitcham, south West London, Rogers said: ‘[We must] challenge the monopoly of the big housebuilders, who are making good money through the system as it is, and have no incentive to speed up.’

He added: ’They are still using the wet trade bricks and mortar technologies that we were using 50 years ago when Norman Foster and I despaired of how long it took to build three houses in a cul-de-sac in Camden’.

Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners’ new low-cost housing scheme for the YMCA has been built using prefabricated construction methods and each unit was around 25 per cent cheaper to build than traditional construction.

The homes cost just £30,000 each to put up.

Rogers’ speech also went on to add that the planning process should not be blamed for current housing supply issues.

‘The number of houses with planning permission in London has doubled in the past ten years, but the pace of development has remained static’, he said.

He called on local authorities to build more using land which they already own.

Rogers added: ‘We need to let local authorities build more, so that they can make the most of their landholdings and create the communities that we need, ploughing value back into building more affordable and social housing, rather than seeing it spirited away as profit or capital gains for overseas investors.’

Richard Rogers’ speech in full

Housing is a basic human need, but we have been failing to build enough for decades.

The figures are well known: we need to build 250,000 homes annually in England, of which we need 50,000 in London.  We are barely building half of those figures.

As supply lags behind demand, housing becomes ever more unaffordable, particularly in London.  We are looking at our houses as speculative assets not a basic human need.  In 1997 the average London home cost five times the average salary; in 2013 the ratio was 11:1.  Rents in the private sector are also rising rapidly.  The result is a squeeze that includes middle class as well as the poorest Londoners.

There has been a lot of progress since 1999, when we published the Urban Task Force report, which became the foundation for a new consensus on urban renaissance.  Densities have risen in our cities, public spaces have been improved, brownfield land has been the focus of new development, the green belt has been protected.

But we are still not building enough. 

We have the space: there is identified capacity for 500,000 more homes in London, and brownfield sites for more than a million in England. 

And we cannot blame the planning process either.  The number of houses with planning permission in London has doubled in the past ten years, but the pace of development has remained static.

We need to find ways of building more market housing, more intermediate housing and more social housing, so that we can preserve the mix of people that makes our cities great.

This means challenging the monopoly of the big housebuilders, who are making good money through the system as it is, and have no incentive to speed up.  They are still using the ‘wet trade’ bricks and mortar technologies that we were using 50 years ago when Norman Foster and I despaired of how long it took to build three houses in a cul-de-sac in Camden.

YMCA are a prime example of how new participants can enter into the housing market, as great charities like Peabody did in the 19th Century, and can make the most of new technologies like Y:Cube rather than sticking to a superannuated business model. 

New private developers are also playing a part, from microflats to purpose built private rented sector accommodation, without being held back by the housebuilders’ business model, and they need to be encouraged.

But we also need to let local authorities build more, so that they can make the most of their landholdings and create the communities that we need, ploughing value back into building more affordable and social housing, rather than seeing it spirited away as profit or capital gains for overseas investors.

Y:Cube, which can be erected fast and cheaply, and moved as land is developed or becomes available is a nimble and innovative response to the housing challenges we face.  We need to unleash similar innovation across the capital, or the same old business model will sustain the same old housing crisis.

Readers' comments (5)

  • Well said. Spot on. The problem is much to do with the land banks House builders sit on to engineer market value. This is a bit like the Libor rate fixing. Housing is far too important to have this level of chaos. It is not a consumer product in the strict sense.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • Richard please push on this rather stupid things like the Garden Bridge. This is so important, but few politicians even understand that the oligopoly of housebuilders in London is a big contributor to the problem, because they keep listening to these same oligopolists who want to blame the planning system. Unless and until these oligopolies are tackled the housing crisis will only get worse

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • There are one million empty homes or buildings that can readily be converted into homes. If we are really serious about housing issues, and not simply about job creation for architects and developers focused on consuming yet more land for building on and new-build, the direction needs to be changed. The housing issue is about homes for people; not just about developers and architects. There is wide range of procurement and implementation routes; we are fixated about less than a handful of these. The whole post-WWII housing saga in the UK has been one disaster after another. Are we ever going to extricate ourselves from this circus?

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • so how does your 44 storey block of flats at the elephant and castle fit into your plan? no affordable flats and an agent for social cleansing. thanks Richard "champagne" Rogers

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • Good as the speech is, it does not face the problem that over 70% of housing built in London is sold overseas off plans before it is marketed in London, in many cases, to be left empty, for occasionally use. So long as this is not just allowed but encouraged, it is a chimera to think that building more will help those who are homeless or sofa-surfing. The problem with our housing is not the quantity but the gross mal-distribution; the result of government policy which encourages over-consumption of a scarce resource by those who choose to use real-estate as their bank deposit vault.

    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.