Millions of unsuitable, ugly homes will not solve the housing crisis

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This blog by Neil Parish MP first appeared on Politics Home here

Britain needs more homes. But there’s a problem. The evidence shows that people don’t want to live in new homes. They don’t like the design or street layout. They prefer older properties in traditional streetscapes.

A whopping 81% of the British public are unenthused about living in a new build development. If we are going to create popular support for new housing in this country, we need to work hard to change attitudes.

That’s why I was so pleased to see the Conservative Manifesto commit to:

“build better houses, to match the quality of those we have inherited from previous generations. That means supporting high-quality, high-density housing like mansion blocks, mews houses and terraced streets.”

Popular design is the best weapon we have in overcoming local opposition to new housing. The Government’s own research shows over half of households would be less opposed to new housebuilding if they had more say over the design and layout of developments.

The social enterprise, Create Streets, have also commissioned polling showing that designs in traditional forms and style command far higher support from local people than less-traditional styles. The public wants new housing – but it must be in the right design.

So what’s the solution? In short, more community consultation and giving people the sort of housing they want. The tools already exist in the form of Neighbourhood Plans and Design Codes. A Design Code is a set of drawn design rules which instruct and advise on the physical development of an area. Used well, they create certainty about what should be built.

The Government should encourage – and provide the resources – for more communities to create their own Neighbourhood Plans with their own Design Codes. This will help improve the design of new houses, while giving local communities a stake and a sense of civic pride in new developments.

I will be raising these points in my Parliamentary debate today on New Housing Design. I hope the Housing Minister will be able to explain how the Government will meet its manifesto commitment on housing design. I will also ask what steps the Government can take to get more local people involved in the design of homes in their area.

Britain is about to experience a big growth in housebuilding. We only have one chance to get this right. If we build millions of unsuitable, ugly homes, it will damage trust in new housing for a generation. But if we build in the right designs, with community involvement, we can encourage more house-building and go a long way to solving Britain’s housing crisis.

Neil Parish is the Conservative Member of Parliament for Tiverton and Honiton

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