No more toxic assets: time for fresh thinking on house building
27 March 2009
Setting out the changes that are needed to avoid more poor-quality housing design when the market eventually recovers.
CABE has been warned to have low expectations about design quality when the housing market finally recovers from the recession. The warnings have come from housebuilders, professionals and public sector alike.
No more toxic assets, written by CABE’s chief executive Richard Simmons, aims to provide some fresh thinking on housing quality. The pamphlet looks at some of the problems created by the downturn and considers the opportunities for good design to emerge from the ashes.
The toxicity of so much of what has been built, through what one commentator calls the ‘build it and b****r off’ business model, will leave us bearing the costs of bad design for many years to come.
But that old model, of housebuilders as traders, may not continue. New models may emerge based around longer-term investment, a stronger role for the public sector, and more variety of tenure.
This offers an opportunity to create better designed homes, although Richard Simmons warns that quality is not something that will simply emerge or prosper without positive action and careful nurturing. ‘There are some essential steps that must be taken to improve quality. If we get them right, they will help the market to come back better and faster.’
There are some essential steps that must be taken to improve quality. If we get them right, they will help the market to come back better and faster.
CABE believes there are three top priorities to ensure that design improves as we recover from the recession.
First, encouraging developers to take a long term stake in development, and support them to invest in quality.
Second, using the public sector’s market power to insist on good design wherever public money is being invested.
The third priority is investing in planning for good placemaking. Councils need, for instance, to write local development frameworks as a prospectus, setting out how they will attract high-quality development. They should use frameworks such as Building for Life to offer certainty about their approach to the design agenda. And in the interests of better placemaking, they should get a grip on their highway engineers and get rid of car-dominated estate roads.