Friday, 25 January 2013

Towers or not, could we please have decent housing? (And get on with it) There doesn’t seem to be much chance of the economy being stimulated to get the badly needed house-building underway (most cabinet ministers have got enough for the time being), so it’s a good time to give the housing industry something to do. The Policy Exchange calls for the widespread demolition of tower blocks. I’ve spoken to quite a few people who love living the high life, but if the PX findings from their recent study are accurate, then there are clearly too many children and young people cooped up in box flats too far from the outdoors. They claim that: 52,000 households with children who are social renters live on the third floor or above (40,000 of which are in London) 20,000 households with children who are social renters live on the fifth floor or above (16,000 of which are in London). The argument may need a little more nuanced understanding. The press release says that: ‘Studies have shown that residents of high-rise blocks or large estates suffer from more stress, mental health difficulties, neurosis and marriage breakdowns’ - and it’s worth asking about the extent to which these dysfunctions might be caused by, exacerbated by, or coincidental to, the housing conditions. Do they occur to a statistically significant extent in well-designed, well-built, well-maintained towers? Meanwhile, we seem to be witnessing an increase in the construction of highly secure high-rise buildings for the wealthy. Is a pattern going to emerge, the posh with their heads in the clouds and the plebs brought down to earth? Perhaps we need to emphasise that design and build quality really must be part of the argument. It’s all very well calling for low rise, but maybe this image can serve as a reminder that bad low rise can be problematic. It would help to breathe life back into the archived CABE (decommissioned by the present government in 2011), because this was their business. It seems to me to be hard for the present government to escape the charge that they have squandered previous progress on decent homes standards.

Recent Comments