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TV architect calls on government to build 100,000 council homes a year

George clarke's council house scandala

TV celebrity architect George Clarke is urging the government to commit to build 100,000 new council homes a year for the next 30 years

His petition on Change.org, which highlights that more than one million people are on council housing waiting lists in England, has so far attracted more than 100,000 signatures. 

The architect last night (July 31) launched his wider campaign, which also calls for the government to review Right to Buy, with the Channel 4 programme George Clarke’s Council House Scandal. It coincided with the centenary of the 1919 Addison Act, which gave councils power to build thousands of homes following the First World War.

In the programme, Clarke reveals his plans to build his own ‘pioneering, modular, low-carbon’ housing estate over the next year. Manchester City Council has offered him a derelict plot for the development.

For inspiration, he visits the Alt Erlaa estate in Vienna and ‘tranquil masterpiece’ Dawson’s Heights in south London, designed by Kate Macintosh, whom he describes as ‘one of the unsung heroes of social housing’.

Macintosh, who, Clarke suggests, should be the next housing minister, says in the programme: ‘It is the responsibility of the state to deal with those three basic needs – shelter, education and health – and they all go together.’

In the show, Clarke explored issues with permitted development rights, which allow offices to be turned into residential accommodation without planning permission; and Right to Buy, which has seen council homes sold off without being replaced at the same rate.

Clarke, an ambassador for the housing charity Shelter, grew up on a council estate in Washington new town, near Sunderland. On the petition he says: ‘I’m proud to have been raised on a thriving council estate in the 1970s. My neighbourhood was a fantastic place to grow up and everyone was proud of their council-owned homes.

‘This country’s obsession with home ownership over the last 40 years has created real stigma around rented council housing – and it breaks my heart.

‘I want this country to remember the true value of council housing and restore it to a place of pride.’

Earlier this year, an expert panel brought together by Shelter in the wake of the Grenfell Tower fire, which included Clarke, called for almost 200,000 social homes to be built every year until 2034.

A spokesperson for the Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government said: ‘Providing quality and fair social housing is a top priority for this government, which is why we’ve freed up local authorities to build more council homes.

‘Since 2010 more than 400,000 affordable homes have been delivered in England and we’re investing over £9 billion, plus an additional £2 billion after 2022, to push on and build more.’


Readers' comments (3)

  • Finally, we have a pragmatic and realistic plan to rebuild Broken Britain and make it great again, as it was for a few decades after the war, with the creation of the welfare state. The first episode was inspirational and reminded those of us who started our training in the seventies of the worthwhile career that was stolen from us by Thatcher, and the last decade of Tory shambles.

    To quote Nye Bevin, they are vermin and will now destroy us all with Brexit. They have systematically destroyed the pillars of civilisation in this country, from shelter, education and health to justice and the entire economy with unnecessary austerity. Grenfell is their legacy, and their response shows their complete indifference to the plight of the weak and vulnerable, targeted by their evil and destructive policies.

    It is now time to fight back...the sweet scent of revolution is in the air...build the barricades and demand a better world. We have had enough and will not put up with any more. Storm the water cannons and yield not to the tear gas...’I see you stand like greyhounds in the slips, Straining upon the start. The game's afoot: Follow your spirit, and upon this charge Cry 'God for Harry, England, and Saint George (Clarke)!’

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  • Try selling a development to an HA with less than 20 and sometimes 40 homes. They are just not interested, they are also not interested in purchasing developments that mix social and general sale homes. Any development between 10 and 20 homes is in limbo, no one will buy them and the off site contributions / 106 / CIL make them uneconomic to build. Anything 9 and under there is no requirement for affordable homes and if there was no HA would buy them as they are too small to manage.

    Any development over 20/40 requires complex intensification of 3 plus site joined, this meets with massive public opposition, we see objections in the hundreds.

    Developers and architects get the blame but its the public who are nimby's, the GOV who have disjointed policy, the planners who are stuck in past utopias (scared of upsetting the nimbiy's) and the HA's who refuse to look at the many smaller sites that are offered to them.

    Planning policy needs to change to allow suburban intensification (such as in Croydon). More creative solutions are needed for car parking and ownership (as this limits intensification). The public need to be educated that homes are needed and if everyone was a Nimby nothing would get build and 4.5M families and their children will be bought up in temporary accommodation, their children with no happy memories or healthy foundation in life. HA's need to radically re-think how they manage their estates so they can buy smaller sites.

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  • Even the Tory government has described the UK housing market as 'broken'. Instead of sticking with the failed old ways that houses are procured and built we need:
    1. More council houses. The new ones that are being built are to a higher standard than many developers and housing associations and winning awards (e.g. in Nottingham, see https://www.worldarchitecturenews.com/article/1522399/nottingham-puts-social-housing-map).
    2. More self build. When people procure their own homes the standard of design and construction is usually higher than average. The opportunity to self build should be there for everyone who can afford to buy a home.
    3. More custom build homes and prefabrication. This is where purchasers can buy a house from a catalogue and have it built to reflect their own preferences. It should be the future for all housing development.

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