Wednesday, May 5, 2021

Under-occupation and 15min neighbourhoods


It is worth repeating many of the issues that arise out of the scale of under-occupation of the existing housing stock.  Figures vary and are debatable, but there seems to be about 28m dwellings and 27m households.  There was a decrease in household size impacted by the increase in housing costs leading to a suppression of new household creation. While grown-up children living at home can be bad, there can be some advantages in growing ‘multi-generational households’. About half of existing residential space and fabric is not meeting genuine housing needs (ie bedrooms being used for storage or working from home – that could and perhaps should be accommodated in neighbourhood workspaces – another blog post needed).


The heating and insulation of un-occupied  or under-occupied space and fabric is and will continue to be unsustainable while accompanied by new building and the carbon emitted in the construction of buildings, services and infrastructure.  The real zero carbon electricity will need to be fairly apportioned between heating, transport and manufacturing (as well as NHS, service/creative industries, security forces etc). Demand from the building sector must be reduced as the scope for building the generators of real zero carbon electricity within carbon budgets is limited.

2.     Active travel and 15min neighbourhoods depends on the density of resident populations and are both impacted by under-occupation.  At current levels of under-occupation (often by the elderly and less mobile) will mean that a 15min ‘locality’ will have fewer and less thriving facilities and services.  This will have the result (as now) that the more mobile will use motorized transport to extend their orbit, and be generally less dependent on both active travel and the local facilities.

3.     The serious inequality in Britain (see The Spirit Level and/or The Inner Level by Wilkinson, R and Pickett, K) is reflected in housing occupation and availability. If some people occupy more space than they need then it is likely if not inevitable that others will not have enough.   Given the adequacy of overall supply, in bald terms (ie ignoring factors such as geography), a relatively small reduction in under-occupation could all but eliminate overcrowding.

4.     The only way to increase supply of  ‘new’ housing in areas of the country where new building is severely restricted (ie Green Belts, AONBs, flood plains) is to sub-divide existing stock.


None of these issues are non-trivial but do not appear to be receiving any serious attention by professional bodies or policy makers.(see earlier DanthePlan posts on custom-splitting for one  possible response)

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