Course title- Sustainable urban development and transport
Essay title- Sustainable Housing “within the context of present day housing provision, Finance and economic factors in the UK”
Housing is not just seen as somewhere to live. New housing can be a driver of urban regeneration. Decent housing stimulates both physical and economic improvement, and the resulting enhancements in turn fuel new investment and fresh opportunities as the urban environment once again becomes full of life and enterprise.
The importance of housing is illustrated by the fact that some 80 per cent of all development relates to housing and because where we live conditions so much of our daily lives (Gilliam, 1997).
At the moment, housing investment seems to be too low to satisfy the number of people in the United Kingdom in need of housing. There is a vicious circle of low investment and high prices which is eroding post-war gains in housing provision, leading to severe housing shortages. It is normally the lower income group who bear the consequences.
The effects of climate change and the strategies for dealing with it will all manifest themselves in the places where we live and work. This is true regardless of the targets and timescales for environmental impacts we debate or the balance we strike between regulatory frameworks and fiscal incentives. As a result, strategic urban design, master planning and the management of buildings, spaces and places must be essential parts of any sustainable development or climate change strategy. A holistic approach is required which goes beyond measurement and calculations to consider the quality of places. . (http://www.cabe.org.uk/AssetLibrary/10661.pdf)
This essay seeks to look at sustainable housing within the context for recent housing provision, finance, economic factors and housing construction in the UK.
At present, there are about 22 million dwellings in the UK, many of which are substandard or in need of major refurbishment. Government research forecast that 4.4 million new households will be required over the 25 year period to 2015. These projections are the result of demographic and social trends. (B. Edgar, J. Taylor, 2000, pg 157)
Some factors determine the availability of housing. Among these are finance and the performance of the construction industry.
Housing investment during the 1980s and 1990s fluctuated in line with financial conditions as a whole. Before the early 1970s, investment in housing did not have direct links to the national fortunes. This helped to stabilise the economy. Without sustained investment and the reduced construction work force, house building during the boom period was crowded out by commercial building activity. It is frequently believed that investment in housing diverts resources away from growth creating investment. But historically, evidence in industrialised countries suggests otherwise; in the medium term, housing investment may actually increase national income through higher and more sustained employment within the sector. Housing investment therefore contributes to economic growth and stability. (Ball 2000,)
The introduction of private finance into housing associations since the late 1980s has been quite successful, and commercial interest rates at which funds are being invested suggest that associations are as good a risk as many large well-diversified manufacturing firms. However, the long term position might be different. Many associations assume that rents will rise faster than inflation, which may well be optimistic in some parts of the country. Further more, a greater proportion of available housing association resources will have to be allocated to repairs in other to maintain standards and the asset value of the housing. The longer term viability of private investment in social housing is therefore fundamentally dependent on the wider government fiscal policy framework.
What is Sustainable housing?
Homes are the building blocks of our communities. They affect our health, our wealth, and our opportunities for happiness. For most of us a home is the biggest investment we will ever make, the biggest asset we will ever own. And housing is critical to Britain’s future – the decisions we take today make a crucial difference to the lives of generations to come.
“The term sustainable housing is used to describe housing which has been designed to increase the efficiency of water, energy and use of materials. Whilst reducing the impact of development upon the health of residents and the environment. Sustainable housing is therefore environmentally friendly and socially inclusive” (Garvin Chinniah, Kim Hoffman, and Kate Pasquale 2007, lecture notes for sustainable housing for BENVGTC5, sustainable urban development UCL seen on UCL. moodle on 29/11/07)
There are three key challenges facing the Government and the planning system in the provision of housing;
• Worsening affordability – One of the consequences of a long-term under-supply of housing has been worsening affordability, with negative consequences for individuals and the wider economy.
• Land supply constraints – One of the key constraints on housing delivery is land supply. The effective supply of appropriate land through the planning system is fundamental to the successful delivery of the Government’s housing policies.
• Responding to the housing market – At present the planning system tends not to take adequate account of information about the housing market. This contributes to under-supply of housing in some areas.
The challenge to the government is to provide more homes for the demanding population.
Housing supply has increased substantially in the last few years and is now at its highest level since the 1980s, but supply is still not keeping up with rising demand from our ageing, growing population
While the housing stock is growing by 185,000 a year in the UK, the number of households is projected to grow at 223,000 a year, with many people living alone, due to this, the Government is now setting a new housing target for 2016 of 240,000 additional homes a year to meet the growing demand and address affordability issues. The level of housing supply needs to increase over time towards this target and the government believes that a total of three million new homes are needed by 2020, two million of them by 2016. (Yvette Cooper, housing green paper, 23/July 2007)
The Housing Corporation is investing ?230 million to deliver around 6,300 homes in small towns and villages through its 2006-08 affordable housing programmes. Overall, completions of new affordable homes in rural local authority areas in 2005-2006 totalled 10,189 new homes – or 23% of all new units of affordable housing supplied in England, similar to the proportion of people who live in these rural areas. The Government commissioned the Housing Corporation to lead a feasibility study over the summer 2007 to consider the case for a new time limited funding programme to help local organisations overcome local barriers to the provision of affordable homes in rural areas.
‘Mayor attacks councils over lack of affordable housing’
Ken Livingstone went into battle with two flagship conservative boroughs over affordable housing despite them being among the best in London for providing new homes.
The Mayor has sough to name and shame wandsworth because of its low proportion of affordable homes and because it makes more properties available to key workers than low income families.
He also attacked Hammersmith and Fulham for seeking to reduce its affordability targets from 65% to 40%- below the ‘aspirational’ 50% London benchmark, even though the council has provided a greater percentage of low cost homes than any other borough over a 3 year period.
Hammersmith and Fulham has accused the Mayor of being obsessed with targets, claiming that its aims of increasing the overall supply of homes from 450 a year to between 600 and 650 will also mean more affordable properties , a minimum of 250 a year compared with its mayoral target of 225.
The mayor wants half of all new developments in London to be “affordable” of these homes, 7 out of 10 should be for rent, and the remaining 3 available for purchase or part purchase in schemes normally favoured by key workers.
Mr Livingstone believes that rented property is the only way of providing decent homes for the 60,000 homeless households in the capital and the 200 in temporary accommodation.
A standard analysis of government house building figures shows that of the 27,578 homes completed in the capital in 2006/2007, only 7 boroughs exceeded their mayoral targets.
A total of 722 homes were built in Wandsworth, almost hitting the mayor’s target for the borough of 745. It is not known how many of these properties were affordable, but between 2003-2004 and 2005-2006, 3,872 homes of all types were built in the borough of which 571 (15%) were affordable. But of these, only 257(6.6%) were for social rent. Mr Livingstone believes there should have been 1,355 such homes.
Across the river, Hammersmith and Fulham has lead the way in affordable housing. Between 2003/2004 and 2005/2006, 955 homes 955 homes were built in the borough of which 782(82%) were affordable. It intends to help young Londoners get on the housing larder as those earning between ?20000 and ?50000/ year account for about 1 in 4 of its residents.” (Material extracted from the evening standard, Monday, 12 November, 2007, pg 9).
New homes built, London, 2006/2007.
Boroughs in London
Barking and Dagenham
City of London
Ham and Fulham
Kensington and Chelsea
Source; Department for communities and local Government, Greater London Authority.
Progress and challenges
The government has made considerable progress since 1997, with a million more home owners, real improvements in the quality of social housing and a substantial reduction in homelessness. But with significant demographic change, fast-rising house prices and environmental challenges, it becomes important that we develop a new strategy towards housing over the years ahead to ensure that we have more homes and that they are greener and more affordable.
The Government has always been committed to the quality of social housing. Since 1997, ?20 billion has been invested in making social homes decent for tenants. Since then the number of households living in non-decent social homes has fallen by more than a million; and over a million children have been lifted out of cold, damp and poor housing as a result.
House building needs to increase further. As demand has grown faster than supply, house prices have risen. They have doubled in real terms over the last 10 years and nearly trebled in the last twenty years.
House prices have risen more quickly than earnings in all regions. On average, lower quartile house prices are now more than seven times lower quartile earnings. This is not just a problem in the south. Affordability problems in the northern regions
(Measured as the ratio of lower quartile house prices to earnings) have risen sharply since 1997. In some areas the ratio has more than doubled. For example in Warrington, affordability has worsened by 140% with the ratio reaching nearly eight times income in 2006. Rural communities also face particular challenges.
http://www.communities.gov.uk/documents/housing/pdf/439986 accessed 30/11/2007)
Why design matters,
The major need for people is abundant housing supply and improved affordability. But in meeting this challenge it is vital we create places and communities where people want to live and work. We need to build more homes and better homes.
In the past, too many new developments have suffered from a lack of attention to quality, safety, energy efficiency, environmental impact or infrastructure. Subsequently, people’s quality of life suffered and the cost of repair and renewal was considerable.
Good design is not just about how a place looks. It involves ensuring that housing is flexible and responsive to the changing needs of society, including meeting the needs of an ageing population, providing better access for wheelchair users and creating more family-sized units with adequate access for baby buggies and outdoor play space. The Commission on Integration and Cohesion once published evidence of the link between perceptions of cohesion and positive attitudes about physical spaces, and we know that well-designed places can make a significant contribution to reducing the risk of crime. And it has the capacity to speed delivery, as local people are more welcoming of well-designed schemes and recognise the positive benefits that new housing can bring to an area.
Climate change as a consequence of greenhouse gas emissions is a reality, and there will be effects over the next 30 to 40 years which are unavoidable. The Kyoto targets set in 1997 for greenhouse gas reductions will not prevent climate change, and the UK Government has set a more exacting long-term goal to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 60% by 2050. Recent policy initiatives have emphasised the seriousness of climate change and shifted towards the achievement of significant carbon savings across a wide range of activities.
Housing providers cannot simply design for today’s climate. They must take account of changing climate circumstances, rising temperatures, increasing storm frequency, changing patterns of rainfall, and extremes of drought and flooding. (Scotland’s sustainable development strategy link: http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Topics/SustainableDevelopment) highlights the importance of dwellings and neighbourhoods to improving quality of life and social cohesion. Safe, warm and dry homes are fundamental to social inclusion, better health, and reducing fuel poverty. Quality of life and social cohesion depend also on the location and quality of the local environment of our homes. The way we plan and develop our neighbourhoods makes a big difference to how communities look, feel and function.
Building and maintaining our homes and neighbourhoods in a sustainable way also meets environmental objectives including cutting greenhouse gas emissions, reductions in pollution and the conservation of resources.
The relationship between sustainability and housing is two-way. Incorporating principles of sustainability into housing development, maintenance and refurbishment will not only make a significant contribution to achieving general sustainability objectives, but will also improve the quality, durability and cost-effectiveness of our housing.
A change of culture is needed so that there is a different approach to housing maintenance and development which places sustainability at centre stage. This should include the developers (whether registered social landlords or for-profit companies), builders and land use planners and also the tenants and owners. Sustainability objectives, such as the government target for reducing carbon emissions by 60% by 2050, will be achieved only if they are taken into account at all stages, from design through construction to long-term use, maintenance and eventual disposal and recycling. Raising the awareness of all those involved is vital.
A sustainable housing development should have:
• Warm, dry, healthy, adaptable homes
• Environmentally friendly and energy-efficient buildings
• Access to employment, schools, shops, places of entertainment, primary health care
• reduced the need to travel (by car) and is accessible by public transport
• A mix of tenures, incomes and age groups
• A setting which enhances the quality of life from one generation to another and integrates people into wider society so that people want to live there
• Aesthetic qualities which can be enhanced by community art.
The quality of housing and our surrounding environments have considerable social and cost implications. An adequate supply of housing (good standard and cost) is perhaps the most cost-effective form of infrastructure that can be provided. Housing standards have implications for health standards, levels of criminal activity and degrees of educational attainment. If the supply or quality of housing is inadequate, there are inevitably heavy cost implications for the providers of social services, often in the form of irrationally expensive emergency solutions such as bed and breakfast accommodation.
The private sector has proved very successful in working in partnership with local authorities and housing associations to bring very large housing and regeneration projects in different areas. Government should continue to encourage private sector participation and investors towards achieving sustainable housing and also invest more funds in housing as shortage of fund is sometimes a limiting factor.
A great degree in the application of planning policy coupled with government measures to promote long term investment in housing will help to provide stable conditions required for the housing industry to respond to the scale of housing shortages.
Government should insist on the comprehensive use of environmental and design quality assessment tools for all buildings on post-completion and post-occupancy evaluations for all new and refurbished public buildings. This is the only way to drive continuous improvement.
Legislation, policy and guidance need to be clearer and more consistent. Strategy and policy on sustainable development, planning, energy, climate change, waste, water, food, landscape character, need to be mutually reinforcing and obvious conflicts resolved so that policies join up rather than appear at odds with each other.
Many local authorities are developing climate change strategies and action plans but implementation varies greatly. There should be greater emphasis on linking core spatial planning strategies with climate change strategies to ensure mutual reinforcement of objectives and targets. These need to be backed up by sound technical implementation, delivery and evaluation.
Public bodies should establish baseline data on their carbon and ecological footprints as the norm and build in organisational capacity to reduce them.
The European Commission and the UK government should require multinational construction companies to report on their sustainability performance to ensure transparency and to foster a culture of benchmarking.
Directions in Housing Policy: Towards Sustainable Housing Policies for the UK By PeterWilliams,A. E. Holman’s accessed via;http://books.google.com/books?hl=en&lr=&id=pfp_sdl12MsC&oi=fnd&pg=PR7&dq=sustainable+housing&ots=AOWzbJiZ9h&sig=obSv0RTyjIK2E96EQ4tSofO-cvs#PPA55,M1 on 16/11/2007
Scottish Executive (2006) Changing our Ways: Scotland’s Climate Change Programme (LINK) http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Topics/Environment/Climate-Change/16327/4825 on 17/11/07
Scottish Homes (2001) Housing for Varying Needs Parts 1 and 2 (LINK) http://www.archive2.official-documents.co.uk/menu/bycs.htm 19/11/07
Scottish Executive (2005) Choosing Our Future Chapter 12 (LINK) http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Topics/SustainableDevelopment 17/11/07
Scottish Executive (2006) People and Place: Regeneration Policy Statement (LINK) http://www.scotland. Assessed 1/12/07
http://www.cabe.org.uk/AssetLibrary/10661.pdf assessed on 1/12/07
( Garvin Chinniah, Kim Hoffman, and Kate Pasquale 2007. lecture notes for sustainable housing for BENVGTC5, sustainable urban development u.c.l seen on u.c.l. moodle on 29/11/07)
(Evening standard, Monday 12 November 2007, Page 9, www.standard.co.uk).
(B. Edger and J. Taylor, 2000, housing in P Roberts and H Sykes (eds.), Urban Regeneration a Handbook, London: Sage, pg 157)
(P Roberts and H Sykes (eds.) 2005, Urban Regeneration a Handbook, SAGE Publications