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Labor’s pledge to build 1.5 million homes can’t just be a numbers game

We need an end to Britain’s “banal” poorly designed housing.New towns must have high-quality design at their core

At last week’s Labor Party conference, Keir Starmer made a bold promise: to build 1.5 million new affordable homes within five years.

Recent times have seen a lot of big promises about house building, but also a lot of false dawns.

But if Britain is indeed on the verge of a new town housing revolution, its core needs should be one: humanisation.

NEF has been working with the newly launched humane movement Improve the design quality of new housing. Here’s what we know about the links between housing design, health and wellbeing.

Poor communities are more polluted

        People living in poorer communities in the UK are forced to live in environments with higher air quality, noise pollution– Usually caused by road traffic.These lead to a higher prevalence of cardiopulmonary and other diseases disease . Pedestrian-friendly places are associated with better health outcomes due to higher levels of physical activity.These are the points highlighted in Marmot’s comments healthyinequality U.K..

        The space between the public and private realms is important

            The look and feel of buildings can make people feel better, and so can the way streetscapes are designed. For example, a welcoming flow from private to public spaces, such as a front garden meeting the public edge, can encourage positive human behaviour.One study shows that such building facades even make us More likely to help strangers.

            We need more tree-lined streets

            As the planet warms, we are likely to experience more extreme heat and weather events.Tree-lined streets provide natural shade, and the presence of green plants and other natural features has also been found to be helpful Reduce dependence on antidepressant drugs.

            Appearance matters: A building’s aesthetics can influence happiness

            While there’s no evidence to support prioritizing a specific architectural style, research shows that simply liking the look of your neighborhood can have positive health benefits.

            Communities that embed such design features may also reap broader benefits. Anthropocentric development is more walkable and may reduce car use and sprawl, while a combination of green and natural features can help mitigate biodiversity loss.

            Additionally, places where people like to spend time are likely to see higher levels of local economic activity, more local spending and jobs, helping to ensure prosperity is more evenly distributed across the country.

            Fundamentally, healthier places that focus on well-being can also reduce public health costs.

            So how will Labor build 1.5 million homes that will stand the test of time? NumberBulldozing the system through planning will not achieve this and, in fact, may have serious negative consequences through poorly designed places

            Here are some of our thoughts on Keir Starmer’s speech last week.

            1. Lock in local wealth: Don’t let developers and landowners over-exploit the value created by this policy. Building 1.5 million new homes will mean redrawing plans and improving infrastructure across the country. Overnight, we could see unexpected inflation in land values ​​in areas suitable for new development. This wealth should be locked up locally rather than exploited by rentiers.Labour’s plan is abolition NumberHope value” , which forces councils to pay high fees for land that may receive planning permission in the future, is welcome. However, it needs to be part of a comprehensive reform that gives councils the power and funding to make land consolidation and strategic land management standard for all new large-scale developments.
            2. Health and Wellbeing Plan: Local masterplans must prioritize health and wellbeing in design and infrastructure. New developments need to be led by an overall masterplan that takes into account uses and space, transport and mobility, the natural environment and biodiversity, district heating and the density, material and design requirements of individual sites.
            3. Give NIMBYs an alternative: Communities need to be at the heart of decision-making. It’s no surprise that NIMBYism has become a drag on efforts to build more housing. Local communities have many reasons to oppose new development. Pressures on existing infrastructure and services include emissions, biodiversity loss, gentrification and displacement. Effectively incorporating communities into the design of new buildings and places should become the norm. One avenue for further exploration might be to convene citizens’ assemblies during the planning stage, whose role would be to set the parameters of new developments and have a say on the use, design and quality.

            To learn more about Humanizeevent and read our reports, visit

            image: Huang Junye

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