In response to the government’s Housing White Paper, Design Council Chief Executive Sarah Weir calls for a step-change in how we design, plan and build the homes the country needs.

The Housing White Paper is an essential policy for the country. In our response, we welcome its focus on increasing housing supply to buy or rent, tackling affordability and its emphasis on design. Today’s broken housing market is one of the most significant barriers to economic progress and social mobility in the UK. It not only restricts economic growth but it damages people’s lives, contributing to poor health, mental health and restricting opportunities for business and communities to grow, and for people to prosper.

However, simply increasing housing supply will not redress this balance. We have to be bold and think differently. Looking at housing, design and the built environment together is the way to transform communities and change the way we live our lives. 

Well-designed development is integral to building prosperity and tackling some of the fundamental challenges facing the country, such as an ageing population, obesity and mental health.

Well-designed development is integral to building prosperity and tackling some of the fundamental challenges facing the country, such as an ageing population, obesity and mental health. By thinking differently we can not only provide the homes people can afford but create the environments that support healthy living, inclusion, safety and foster a genuine sense of community.

This requires a step-change in the way we plan and build homes across the country. To deliver this we need design. Our Design for Growth Blueprint uses design to change lives. Through well-designed products, services and places we can respond to the challenges of the 21st century and drive prosperity for all people.

Our response calls for a bolder approach, including: 

  • Joint action across national and local government, construction, planning and design industries to develop built environments that deliver a step-change in  quality and  affordability which impacts positively on inclusion, prosperity and people’s health
  • A strengthening of national planning policy so that all development has to meet inclusive design principles, enabling everyone to access them irrespective of age, ability, gender, ethnicity or social background
  • Government to think again about its plans to remove design as a valid reason for objecting to development, recognising the importance of local democratic accountability in the planning system. 
  • Investment in strong, meaningful community engagement in all major developments to improve development, reduce risk of failure and ultimately supply the homes people, business and communities need.
  • Government, construction and design industry to work together to address emerging skill gaps and to facilitate innovation through use of modern methods and increased collaboration across the system and housing building market.

Construction methods are largely unchanged since the middle of the last century.  With a skills crisis looming ahead for the industry, along with an ageing workforce we have to support innovation and modern methods to drive higher standards. It’s time for a comprehensive strategy to build the skills needed to diversify and transform housebuilding.

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