More homes on housing estates must go hand in hand with better quality of place

11 January 2016

Important note:

This report is necessarily theoretical and does not intend in any way to directly inform the practice of regenerating estates. 
It attempts to compare two different approaches to estate regeneration – the widely practised ‘contemporary’ regeneration which largely replaces existing buildings and an alternative ‘complete streets’ model and in order to make direct comparisons.  In order to achieve a like for like comparison of these two different types of regeneration we assumed cleared sites.  This absolutely should not be taken as a recommendation that estates can only be regenerated through demolition.
Rather, the Complete Street model advocates a range of estate outcomes, very much including the extension and refurbishment of existing buildings.  We also state that successful estate regeneration must start by engaging with existing estate residents at the very outset and that 100% of existing residents would have the right to be re-housed on site in an equivalent or better home under the same terms in an equivalent or better home. 
It is important to read this report in this context.

London needs to build some 50,000 new homes a year over the next 20 years and some of this requirement can be accommodated by increasing the density of existing places, including local authority housing estates.  

Many such estates require updating and this can be done in a way that creates many more homes, a significantly improved living environment for existing and future residents, and better value for local authorities, according to a new report published today. This would be achieved by rebuilding estates in a street-based pattern, fully integrated into the urban network of neighbouring streets.  

Analysis by real estate adviser Savills has already highlighted the potential to deliver more housing by increasing density in well-connected areas as well as the benefits of building sustainable urbanism (1). 

Completing London’s Streets, published today by Savills takes this work forward, estimating that at least 54,000 and up to 360,000 additional homes could be accommodated within existing local authority housing estates through a new approach to estate regeneration.  Importantly, the Savills analysis assumed that every existing resident would be re-housed under the same terms on the new streets.

The report proposes a new ‘Complete Streets’ model, based on a permeable and well-connected streetscape, which Savills says would improve density and achieve a better outcome for all existing and future residents and greater value for local authority stakeholders.

Many of London’s local authority housing estates were built at a time when London was depopulating, so were not built at optimum density.  The report estimates that, had they been built in the 1960s and 70s to the same density as ‘Complete Streets’, they would have housed a further 480,000 households. But, the report argues, low density has not equated to a higher quality of place in the majority of cases.  Many of the capital’s estates were constructed in a manner that means they are cut off and poorly integratedwith the rest of London and neighbouring local communities.

The conventional approach to estate renewal, often controversial at a local level, is based on replacing the existing site with new high-mass blocks and towers in a similar layout but at higher density, which does little to improve the neighbourhood or create new place value.  Savills has modelled this ‘contemporary regeneration’ approach against a ‘complete streets’ alternative, based on a detailed study of six estates across London.

The alternative, ‘complete streets’ model proposes rebuilding estates in a street-based pattern, fully integrated into neighbouring streets and community. The analysis estimates that approximately 1,750 hectares of London’s estimated 8,500 hectares of local authority housing estates might be capable of regeneration using this approach.  

This could provide somewhere between 190,000 to 500,000 homes, representing an increase over the number of existing homes of between 54,000 and 360,000 (see table below).  And because this approach creates opportunities for mixed use development and is fully integrated into the broader city, it also creates greater life chances and employment opportunities for residents.

“The results were stark, particularly the ability not only to improve density but also the resulting quality of place and value,” says Yolande Barnes, Savills research director who led the analysis.

“Moreover, the complete streets combination of terraced houses, mid-rise mansion blocks and refurbished towers integrated into a human-scale streetscape, actually costs less to build than new high-mass blocks in open space. A ‘complete street’ neighbourhood will create a better, more desirable place to live and a better asset for the local authority or housing association land owners than contemporary regeneration practices.

“These findings should have significant resonance for both public land owners and the housing industry because of the profound difference in the end asset value of the two different types of neighbourhood that can be created.”

Because the value of the complete streets approach will be realised over a period of time to occupants, landlords and land owners,it requires a different development, management and stewardship model to the conventional approaches dominant in the market today. The ‘complete streets’ model requires long term patient capital funding rather than short term debt-reliantfunding, for example.  

Among other benefits are that it also offers opportunities for new and more varied types of residential tenure and the possibility for ongoing land owner involvement, potentially endowing the public sector with income.

“This report challenges the housing industry to think differently about development, estate renewal and estate regeneration in order to improve life chances for many of London’s residents and to create a sustainable income for local authorities,” Barnes concludes.

Table of comparative results under alternative scenarios

Note: All calculations of regeneration numbers and values, in all cases, presumes that there would be a strong community role at the outset in Complete Street regeneration plans and that 100% of residents would have the right to be re-housed on site in a equivalent or better home.

Full report available here

- ENDS –

(1) Analysis by real estate adviser Savills and London First (Redefining Density, August 2015) highlighted the potential to deliver up to around one million more homes than the current 10-year London Plan by making better use of land by moderately increasing housing densities in well-connected areas.  




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