When housing secretary James Brokenshire announced a new commission championing beautiful buildings as an integral part of the drive to build the homes communities need, it marked a shift in the way national government viewed the future of, and its approach to, housebuilding.
The commission, which was developed to set out practical measures to help developments meet the demand of communities, was a break away from simply stating that more houses needed to be built to address the housing crisis.
Since 2010, we have seen seven housing ministers come and go and several white papers presented. Yet the housing crisis remains as serious as ever, thanks to factors including: under-resourced planning departments; land scarcity; a shortage of skilled workers and commodities; and the failure of the industry to innovate and embrace new methods of construction.
Addressing the housing shortage is not just about building new homes; it is about creating sustainable new places where people want to live and can enjoy their surroundings.
We need to focus on mixed-tenure and mixed-use communities that unlock an area’s potential by delivering new local amenities, community facilities, public spaces and transport infrastructure. Such plans require close collaboration and strategic partnerships with local residents, community groups, councils, housing associations and other statutory providers.
Working in partnership delivers better results by bringing together a broader range of perspectives, expertise and priorities. When councils and housing associations work with private developers, there is value in the varied skillsets that are provided by the parties. Rather than delivering a development that is compromised, this approach can result in a scheme with broader appeal, more accurately reflecting the needs and aspirations of the local community and future residents.
The proof is in the pudding. We are half way through transforming Acton Gardens (above), the 52-acre former South Acton Estate in west London, a sprawling estate once in need of urgent regeneration. We are breaking down the social boundaries that divided the old estate and neighbouring communities through close community engagement.
Solving the housing crisis is not simply about building for today. Collaborators must take a long-term view by implementing a long-term stewardship programme with strong local governance that works for the community and is treasured by generations to come.
As an industry, to deliver on our promises to address the housing crisis, we must champion the need for sustainable communities, established through meaningful partnerships, creating places where people want to live.
Iain McPherson is chief executive of partnerships, south, at Countryside
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