WAN focusses on London’s housing crisis

Nick Myall
Wednesday 13 Sep 2017

London deputy mayor for housing James Murray gave the keynote speech at last night’s WAN Housing Symposium

The World Architecture News London Housing Symposium took place last night at a packed NLA in central London where the key issues and possible solutions to the present housing crisis were debated and discussed.

In many ways London is a story of economic success and housing failure. As a result, high demand for housing and a limited supply, particularly of affordable homes, has led to a situation where very few first time buyers can afford a home and many young people are being forced to look elsewhere. 

It was against this backdrop that the Symposium took place, before an audience of up to 170 experts and decision makers from across the architectural and housing spectrum with attendees on the night from CF Moller, Zaha Hadid Architects, Gensler, Waugh Thistleton Architects and many more.

Each attendee was given a copy of the WAN Urban Challenge 'Manifesto for Change' which was the end result of a process which looked at London's housing crisis from an internatioanl perspective. This document (see attached PDF) focussed on the five key areas of Land Supply, Planning Reform, Section 106, Housing Design and Housing Supply.

The London deputy mayor for housing James Murray gave a keynote speech in which he emphasised the need for collaboration between City Hall, government and the architectural and housing world. He went on to underline that, “It costs more to rent a one bed flat in London than it does to rent a three bedroom flat elsewhere in the UK, with 80% of London homes only being affordable to 8% of Londoners.”

James also reflected on the planning system saying: “We need to get a high percentage of affordable housing through the planning process in London. It will have to be streamlined with affordable homes in mind. In addition the relevant infrastructure must be in place before these homes are built.” He also stressed that alternatives to high-rise development were required as we look to densify housing provision.

There was also a thought-provoking panel debate, a series of five minute presentations from members of the WAN Urban Challenge Task Force and a lively audience Q & A session. During the presentations David West from Studio Egret West highlighted the need for more positive terminology surrounding the whole housing debate, such as not referring to housing units but homes and perhaps altering the term ‘Housing Crisis’ to become ‘Housing Choice’. David also went on to say that, “a more imaginative approach to high rise development was required instead of just repeating floorplates.”

The panel also recognised the fact that the UK State need to become a major builder of homes again and despite a record number of home applications being processed in 2017 the State’s involvement has been in decline since the 1970s.

To round up the discussions there was an audience voting session where key questions relating to the housing crisis were polled - Follow this link for the results WAN UC site. This was followed by a drinks and canapes before the evening concluded.

Click here to view WAN's London Housing Manifesto

Nick Myall

News editor

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United Kingdom

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