Supplementary memorandum by RIBA (AFH
The Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA)
welcomes the opportunity to submit written evidence to the Urban
Affairs sub-committee on the issue of affordable housing, and
records its willingness to submit oral evidence if the Committee
considers this appropriate.
The RIBA is a professional chartered institute,
whose membership consists of some 28,000 architects in the United
Kingdom and internationally. The RIBA also has a network of 14
regional offices throughout the UK. The RIBA has consistently
addressed the challenges of housing policy in an ever-changing
It is essential that the government addresses
the shortage of affordable housing to prevent a fundamental breakdown
in the provision of key public services and the effective running
of major transport infrastructure. This shortage is particularly
apparent in London and the South East.
The RIBA believes that increased resources committed
to public services such as health and education will generate
an increased demand for affordable housing as new key workers
are recruited. It is generally assumed that key workers are those
providing the public services of nursing, teaching and police
service. It is nonetheless true that many employees eg clerical
workers, those entering the work force, those providing support
services in diverse occupations from retail to sewage treatment
and waste disposal are generally considered to be within the income
bands who are unable to qualify for a mortgage according to figures
published in the Land Registry October-December 2001 and quoted
by the National Housing Federation in their press release "Where
will the nurses live?" issued on 22 April 2002. As life expectancy
in the population increases those retired and of pensionable age
will also generate an increased demand for affordable housing.
The Government's Start Homes Initiative has demonstrated the demand
for affordable housingindeed, demand has far exceeded supply.
We recognise the contribution, and therefore
responsibility, of the architecture profession, along with other
professions and stakeholders, to providing housing that is affordable,
safe and well designed. We also believe that well-designed affordable
housing will assist the Government in achieving its objectives
eradicate child poverty;
improve energy efficiency; and
tackle social exclusion.
We urge the Government to commit itself to a
co-ordinated approach towards housing policy, especially with
bodies concerned with housing finance, to ensure greater flexibility
and spread the cost of buying property over a longer period, thereby
making the purchase of property less prohibitive. Better financing
mechanisms can be consideredincluding "soft"
loans or innovative financing options to make homes more affordable.
It is important that the Government continues
to address the issue of improving skills in the built environment
professions to ensure that new affordable housing assists in promoting
sustainability and an urban renaissance.
The RIBA believes that the location of new hospitals
and schools is vital to their success and that co-ordination is
required across Government to ensure adequate infrastructure arrangements
are in place, especially the provision of public transport. The
most disadvantaged in society are those with the greatest dependency
on public amenities. The RIBA believes that dialogue between clients
and design professionals improves the performance of both. Through
its Client Forum initiative it aims to achieve value for money,
quality and fitness for purpose in construction projects. The
Housing Forum encourages clients and architects working in the
sector to understand and embrace strategic issues, to inform,
influence and improve project developments.
The RIBA believes that affordable housing "quotas"
are good in theory, as a focus for ensuring affordable homes are
included in major housing developments, but in practice may lead
to misuse by developers, especially where there is a threshold
below which it is not necessary to provide affordable housing.
It is essential that, in designing new affordable
homes, certain qualities should not be compromisedsecurity,
disabled access, proximity to amenities and sources of employment,
and environmentally sustainability. These are not "add on"
extras, but integral to the design of all housing, including affordable
housing. Greater consideration is needed with regard to the design
and location of affordable housing for the elderly.
Some issues are perennial. The 1983 report by
the Institute of Housing and Royal Institute of British Architects
"Homes for the Future" affirmed that "Corrective
action is not achieved overnight. The building industry takes
time to respond, and the temptation will be to ease the way by
promoting designs and materials that have not been properly tested
and evaluated, to reduce design standards generally and to put
quantity before quality."
We would caution against reliance on pre-fabricated
housing, which may seem like an attractive short term, low cost
solution to the shortage of affordable housing, but which may
lead to an exacerbation of urban neglect and segregation.
The need for affordable housing reinforces the
case advanced in the Urban Task Force Report, for the appointment
of a single urban regeneration Minister as a central point of
co-ordination across Government to implement a strategy for improving
the quality of our urban environment.
We support the appointment of a Government Task
Force on Affordable Housing, to produce a co-ordinated and targeted
strategy, involving key Government Departments, financial bodies
and the built environment professions.