Better homes for those living in them, and those looking at them

Today, RIBA’s Future Homes Commission calls for a revolution in the scale, quality and funding of home-building to fix our broken housing market.

The report’s central recommendation is for a three-fold increase in the number of new homes built every year to over 300,000, kick-started by a £10bn Local Housing Development Fund, which would be financed and owned in turn by local authority pension funds.

Just as importantly, they want the homes built in well-designed sustainable communities of mixed-tenure homes.

The report highlights several examples of well-designed homes, such as the Derwenthorpe development in York:

As Shelter has previously identified, we need to build this many new homes to keep up the growing number of new households and to meet the existing unmet backlog of need, represented by the spectrum of the growing number of homeless to struggling first-time buyer families.

But what no one wants in response is the proliferation of poorly designed and unattractive new homes that have already in evidence in many local neighbourhoods.

Shelter’s work on the housing attitudes and aspirations of local communities shows that they often object to new development because of the likelihood of poorly designed new housing. Many people fear this will bring down the quality of the neighbourhood and, in turn, the value of their own home.

This month, the Prime Minister powerfully stated the need to confront NIMBYism to help stop the average age of a first time buyer rising yet further. This is undoubtedly welcome, but to match that rhetoric with delivery, the Government will need to recognise that quality can help deliver quantity.

Poorly designed homes built today store up planning objections tomorrow. The homes desperately needed for the next generation to affordably rent and buy have to be more than ‘rabbit hutches’, not just in the interests of family life, but so the community will support the next wave of new homes.

The homes we build in the future will be our legacy to future generations, in terms of impact on the natural and built environment. But they must also meet the needs of modern households.

Previous work by RIBA and Ipsos MORI on behalf of the Future Homes Commission shows that people aspire to live in homes with the ‘period features’ of space and light, room to eat together and entertain, outside space where children can play in safety, plenty of storage, and layouts that accommodate technology and are flexible enough to meet changing needs.

People want more dependable, easily-comparable information about new homes, such as energy efficiency and size measured in the number of square metres rather than the number of rooms.

The Prime Minister must take heed of the Commission’s call for the ongoing Government review of housing standards to result in minimum national standards for space, storage, noise insulation and natural light.

These standards are not only essential for the wellbeing of new residents, whether they are owner-occupiers, private or social tenants – they will also help ensure existing residents will support new development, confident that the result will be well-designed, attractive, energy-efficient and mixed neighbourhoods.