Earlier this week the government published its Social Housing Green Paper, ‘A New Deal for Housing’. The consultation has been met with a mixed response. Organisations such as Shelter and the National Housing Federation have said that the reforms would not be effective without substantial new funding for council house building and the need to build more social housing.

One section that caught my eye was ‘promoting good design’. Interestingly and importantly, this sat within the chapter called ‘tackling stigma and celebrating thriving communities’. The Green Paper makes clear that “the design and quality of homes and their surrounding areas is important to wellbeing, integration, tackling stigma and encouraging existing communities to accept new homes in their area”. This green paper, coupled with the revised NPPF, also published recently, shows that this government is finally beginning to get that design is at the heart of good housing and strong communities, not just a part of it.

 It is only by looking at the design of the whole community that we will create better places for the people that live in them now, and in the future. So not just considering the housing development in isolation, but as inextricably linked to wider considerations, such as connections to transport, green spaces and jobs. Our work over the past year including Healthy Placemaking research, our 100-year life report and our Design Review Insight Report, which will be published shortly, all highlight the importance of looking at the whole place, not just an individual building or development. They also provide evidence of the better results which occur if this is done

Building better places is at the heart of Design Council’s work. By designing better places we make life better. We create places which are healthier, more inclusive and connect people to their surrounding community. Places that are well designed cannot, and should not, be only for those who can afford it. If we create badly designed places that reduce costs for the developer, we are simply passing the costs on for the taxpayer to be dealt with in the future. Physical inactivity alone is already estimated to cost the UK £7.4 billion annually. Over the next 5 years this will be £37 billion or about 84% of what the government will be spending on housing in the same period.

The green paper, the NPPF and MHCLG’s Design Quality Conference that took place in April 2018 shows that government is taking design seriously. It understands the importance of good design to its entire housing strategy and to achieving its aspiration to build 300,000 new homes a year by the mid-2020s. The government now needs to be bold. It should publish a housing design strategy that brings together all the various good words and deeds, to create a clear roadmap with guiding principles that the whole sector can get behind.

For findings from a recent data project to identify trends and common themes across recent Design Reviews at Design Council, please click here.

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