Here & Now 7: Housing


1. Welcome
2. Editorial

8. Great British plans: and how to avoid future waste
Ian Wray’s book prompts Nicholas Falk AoU to reflect on how we deliver major infrastructure

10. Assemble
Kieran Toms speaks to the Turner Prize-winning collective

14. From Manchester to Marseille
Charlie Critchell shares his research on the potential impact of high speed rail beyond our capital cities

17. Co-goverance: building a stronger spirit of collaboration
Katy Hawkins reports on Bologna’s forward-thinking approach to collaboration

20. Why the physical legacy of Apartheid is still a challenge for South Africa’s cities
Camilla Ween AoU explores the reole of ecomobility is uniting divided cities

25. Politicians fiddle while housing goes unbuilt
Jeff Austin AoU holds no bars in his explanation of the root cause of the housing crisis

28. Sub-urbanism: a new focus?
Jon Rowland AoU questions whether current housing really does represent our values and desires

31. Creating a proper city
Yolande Barnes AoU urges city-makers to work and think together at street level

34. Making room: responding to the housing crisis in New York and London
John McAslan AoU shares his ideas on how to deliver more and different housing

37. The new world
Mike Wilkins AoU sums up the changing political and financial context faced by housing associations

40. Getting a handle on housing affordability: lessons from the Commonwealth
Derek Wilson looks for answers in Vancouver and Sydney

44. Let’s not make a crisis out of a drama
James Gross AoU talks to economist and government housing advisor Dame Kate Barker

52. Urban idiocy
Brilliant but flawed ideas for the city

54. My own view is…
Higher education can foster urbanism, says Paul Ostergaard AoU

55. …And a final thought…
David Porter’s fourth instalment of learning to learn from place. This time, on how we capture the whole story of places


Welcome to the Spring 16 edition of Here and Now. The format of our Journal is becoming established: a selection of regular updates, insights and reflections, and a substantial thematic section with contributions from Academicians and others with a particular perspective on the issue du jour.

The quality, quantity and accessibility of housing has been close to the heart of urbanism theory and practice since the late 19th century. The Academy has identified and celebrated a number of examples of innovative and established housing developments, management schemes and improvement projects over the past 10 years. It is all the more frustrating, then, that in the UK; in England in particular; and especially in London, our inability to match housing supply to the formation of new households has got worse rather than better over the past 40 years.

There does seem to be an emerging consensus now, across all agencies involved in the supply and management of housing, that the market cannot resolve the issue on its own. ‘Public’ housing is once again being seen as a means of providing a large number of affordable homes, and perhaps the obsession with home ownership is beginning to wane. As a child of one of the post-war council housing estates that Martin Crookston celebrates and advocates in his book Garden Suburbs of Tomorrow?, I feel that this revival not only has the potential to increase housing supply substantially, but also to remove the stigma now associated with ‘council estates’. They once again offer homes to a broader cross-section of society, rather than primarily those in ‘housing need’.

Shelter is one of the fundamental requirements in Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, and the Academy, in exploring the higher levels of success in urban self-esteem, may not have given it the attention it deserves; particularly when much of the world’s urban population would give their eye teeth for the sort of housing of which we are, at times, so critical.

By the time you read this we will be exploring the future of urbanism through our 10th Anniversary Congress, in the context of east London, where there is still scope to redress the general imbalance of housing provision in this most worldly of World Cities. I hope our discussions will shed more light on the nature of the problem, and give us greater confidence to influence the housing agenda, drawing on the combined experience and expertise of our Academicians and the knowledge we have gained from the places we have visited, assessed and celebrated through our Urbanism Awards.

I look forward to joining that debate, and to seeing as many of you as possible at our Congress and on the Awards assessment visits this summer.

Steven Bee AoU


In this issue we put the spotlight on housing which seems to be something, as some of our authors point out, that people are on the receiving end of, rather than active participants in creating. We point out that as urbanists, our aim surely is to create homes rather than houses – places for people to live. Creating, as Yolande Barnes puts it, the ‘proper city’ – simple buildings in a complex streetscape capable of accommodating a huge range of diverse activities.

Neighbourhoods though, can become separated physically or even psychologically as people shun areas of our cities whether it is because they feel unwelcome, or in danger. Camilla Ween in her article on the challenges presented by the physical legacy of Apartheid in South Africa points out that this is not only an urgent issue for cities in that country, but also for so many of our cities that have evolved into ghettoised communities with real or perceived erected barriers between each other.

Movement in cities happens naturally when people feel they are welcome and barriers do not exist and people are free to move into neighbouring areas. Breaking down such barriers is fundamental to creating an equitable city where all people can move freely everywhere. Making cities permeable across their communities is an essential aspect of creating sustainable cities.

Urbanists can be facilitators of this as well as doers. Kieran Toms talks to Alice Edgerley from the collective Assemble to find out how they develop community projects from temporary conversion of a filling station to the regeneration of a street that was a finalist in the AoU Awards. Collaboration is key.

In her interview with Christian Iaione, innovator behind Bologna’s Co-cities Protocol, Katy Hawkins draws attention to a different kind of collaboration between authorities and communities and points out that conversations about community engagement have become dominated by ideas of networked-thinking, which transcends bottom-up, top-down.

Communities, then, are perhaps better able to judge what places should be like and how to create the ‘proper city’.

Alastair Blyth AoU

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