Failing council estates offer housing crisis solution

housing crisis
Action to build more homes and better communities across London

The “hulking, brutal tower blocks of the 1950s, 60s and 70s” that make up many of London’s council estates provide an answer to the capital’s housing crisis.

Shadow infrastructure minister Lord Andrew Adonis is calling on local authorities to create hundreds of “city villages” on land that is currently occupied by council estates in desperate need of renewal.

Lord Adonis, who is editor of Institute for Public Policy Research publication City Villages, says many of the “concrete wastelands” that make up the capital’s housing estates are badly designed. “Most have not been redeveloped in half a century and they are often in poor physical condition. Too often they are social ghettos and their density is generally low, partly because of the post-war policy of depopulating London,” he adds.

But he points out that the scale of existing council housing estates is vast. Southwark Council owns about 43% of the entire borough, including 10,000 garages. In many Inner London boroughs, councils own between 25% and 33% of all land. Islington alone has over 150 council estates of more than 50 units, occupying some of the most expensive land in the world. I estimate there may be 3,500 estates London-wide.

There is no single solution to London’s housing crisis, Lord Adonis admits, but the creation of hundreds of new city villages is an opportunity to build attractive mixed communities learning from the mistakes of the past.

And he is asking London mayor Boris Johnson to take his plans forward. “Most boroughs lack masterplanners, and financial and regeneration experts,” says Lord Adonis. “The mayor should build a world-class team able to work with the 32 boroughs so that each has an ambitious city village programme.

“Bold action is needed to build more homes and better communities across London. City villages would be transformational.”