Growing cities and building resilience: Housing

Demand for housing has driven rental and purchase costs beyond affordable levels in several cities. In meeting this demand we also need to consider the building of communities, not just houses. Is denser urban housing the only way forward?

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Cities account for 52 per cent of the UK’s housing stock, but none of the top 10 cities have increased it in line with their population growth.

Housing supply across the UK has struggled to keep pace with demand across the country. High rental and purchase costs and a lack of availability are a source of considerable pressure in core UK cities. These factors raise concerns about the perceived ‘economic cleansing’ of some urban centres, and displacement of much of the workforce to the ‘commuter belt’ and beyond. This in turn increases pressure on transport networks, contributing to poor productivity levels.

Large-scale development and building on the green-belt is often contentious and adequately housing a growing population presents a major challenge that governments are wary of tackling head-on. Additionally, it’s not just about the availability or cost of housing, it’s also about ‘creating places’. High density, high-rise housing has often neglected the street-level impact, and this is still true of many new inner-city developments.

It’s not just about the availability or cost of housing, it’s also about ‘creating places’ for the people who live there.

While not all our urban areas are thriving as we’d like, we now face a major challenge of growth and development in and around our cities. And addressing housing need and mixes is one of the most pressing issues on the social and political agenda.

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What are the challenges?

Our Urbanisation green paper identified a number of key questions that must be resolved in order to provide sufficient high quality housing for residents of our cities.

  • Is more and denser urban housing the answer to availability and cost problems, or does it present other physical and social risks which outweigh potential benefits?
  • What can we learn from the highdensity housing provision of the past, and how can it be improved to address quality, cost, supply and environmental challenges?
  • How we as engineers help build a ‘community’ – not just the physical infrastructure but places where people are happy, sociable, and can raise families?
  • What is the role for housing and infrastructure in helping address the UK productivity problem?

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What do the experts think?

To stimulate debate on these questions, ICE has canvassed a range of built environment experts and curated a number of resources to help inform your thinking. To find out more about these opinions, simply click on a resource below.

It is vital that we receive your input, and this will be used to shape our future outputs and ICE's answers to these challenges.

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Do you agree with the experts? Or do you have a different vision of how engineers can shape our future communities and housing? Or do you have a good case study you want to highlight? Let us know in the comments section below!