In a world where an affordable home has become the oxymoron of our time, we need to think differently about housing delivery.
The Radical Housing Conference in Bristol explored how land assembly, finance, inclusion and communities could combine in innovative ways. Together they can unlock new and radical models that enable the delivery of properly affordable homes for people in housing need.
Here’s what Studio Bark took from the day:
Session 1: The Need for Innovation : Paul Chatterton – LILAC
“270,000 faced homelessness in 2021 and only a quarter of these people were in full time/part time employment”
Paul Chatterton started his talk on the importance of housing, particularly post Covid and his experience living and working on a co-housing community.
Here are some key notes:
- The goal is to change the system that housing is produced and not individual houses.
- Bring back interaction with humans and non humans (nature) as housing is destroying our habitats.
- We are driving social isolation through geographical unevenness (non nucleus housing).
- We are creating precarious lifestyles.
- Allocation of land typically feeds large corporations and not co-op schemes.
- We have increased privatisation, for example an influx in gated communities
- The creation of non-places has a detrimental effect on the strain on housing opportunities.
LILAC served as a key case study in understanding the benefits of co-op housing and its social, economic and health of its inhabitants.
So how has LILAC been successful?
- There is a large emphasis on low carbon materials.
- It supports community wealth and local prosperity, especially with independent shops.
- It enables nurturing biodiversity.
- Reduces car dependency.
- Offers personalisation and not modification (modular homes).
- Price of house is dependent on wages and is not market driven.
Q: What if people want to move or relocate but still want to be in a co-op?
A: Decommodifying allows people to move houses and they can create their own market.
Setting up a resource bank is crucial when creating a community build. This gives people access to professional aid so they are not ‘left to themselves’.
Obtaining a community land trust can also boycott conventional housing markets and take back autonomy on ownership.
Image credit : Andy Lord
Session 2: The role of Custom Build and Community-led Housing : Richard Bacon MP
“67% to 75% of people are unlikely or would prefer not to buy the product of volume house builders.”
Richard Bacon MP, ran us through the current status of lack of housing within the UK
there is a worrying accumulation of ‘bags’ of public land which could be commandeered to use for projects like LILAC e.g. NHS land, railway and ‘land that’s available in plain sight’.
We need to start an unlocking of land. Big corporations can be unaware of the extent of their ownerships. As a law, they have to be able to look after their land to the best of their ability and how can you when you don’t know how much you have?
Here are some questions raised:
Q: How to incentivise the government to invest in local communities and not large scale developers and their schemes?
A: Reinforce profitability of social value as opposed to financial value
Q: How can we have security without ownership?
A: Owning things gives you security but not everyone will afford to own. It’s the government’s job to make it as easy as possible rather than yet another hurdle for the people that want this option
Q: What are the main barriers to affordable housing?
A: Funding, finance, mortgage, equity and warranty providers to name a few
Session 5: Accessibility and Inclusion : Guy Harris Accessible PRS
Guy Harris set up AccessiblePRS to increase the supply of accessible wheelchair housing in the UK.
“It’s something I know about having spent over 20 years in the property sector, the last 17 years as a full time wheelchair user.”
Understanding housing in terms of inclusivity can help us, as professionals within the built environment, think of ways we can create social housing for the use of every individual.
A fantastic case study that is in production is Stonebridge Park and the general production of modular houses by Agile Homes.
Their new project incorporates low embodied carbon homes, with wheelchair accessibility on all buildings, on a small scale community housing project.
Guy enforced the importance of how disability should be built into our homes as common practice and not an afterthought. We don’t tend to think of what the multiple positive outcomes that inclusion can offer.
Session 7: Design for Future Living : Dawn Parke and Jemma Browne BCU
Both Dawn and Jemma work as lecturers at Birmingham City University and spoke to us about the importance of awareness of the housing crisis within education.
Sustainability within the education sector was the theme of this session and without an upskilling of knowledge on ‘sustainability’, we create a huge disparity in ability to react and implement solutions effectively
Some key points touched on:
- Sustainably in design literacy is extremely important (especially in Universities or educational bodies)
- Community collaboration is vital
- Partnership working is essential as built environment professionals
- As leaders in education, was the issue of accreditation (with or without RIBA) and getting students involved in courses that may not be considered or credited within the RIBA programme.
Session 8: Emmau EcoPods : Agile Homes
The last session of the day was spent visiting the Emmaus Eco Pods by Agile homes.
Emmaus Bristol, which helps people get off the streets and back into work, has applied to build two so-called “eco-pods” at its base in St Pauls. The pods would be managed and maintained by people who were formerly homeless.
Built with mainly timber and straw, these pods have low embodied and operational carbon. These were a good case study in understanding how high quality, low embodied carbon and fabric-first principles can be applied to inclusive and accessible housing.
It is paramount that as professionals of the built environment, we come together and take part in the collective uplifting and positive change to our current housing crisis. This conference showed the depth of knowledge each individual and sector have to offer and how we are already brainstorming ideas to push for positive change.