It was a pleasure to host the third session of NLA's Expert Housing Panel during a day of housing-themed events at Pollard Thomas Edwards’ studios.
The session started with an update from Federico Ortiz and Grace Simmonds positioning the Housing Panel recommendations within the wider NLA programme and the emerging London Agenda to be presented to new mayor in 2024. This useful discussion also identified several important overlaps with the other NLA panels such as Tall Buildings, where further joint sessions were proposed.
Prior to this meeting, two working parties had developed further detail to support the panel’s recommendations, regarding best practice for council estate ballots and responses to the GLA's Housing Design Quality and Standards. Both fed-back the outcomes of the focus group work.
The discussion here reflected panel members recent experience where, due to funding pressures and sustainability targets, infill, extension and refurbishment were often considered in place of wholescale estate demolition. We explored the remit and relevance of ballots to this scenario, and to the post-covid approach to engagement. We also discussed the potential of a two-stage ballot approach focused on early resident commitments and a reduction of the timescales and investment required to establish regeneration principles.
GLA Housing Standards
We then considered the outcomes of a productive meeting between the GLA and the panel focus group. Many of the GLA guidance principles were welcomed, with much of the discussion examining the impact on housing design and layout; and the possibility of how further funding could be unlocked as an incentive to achieve the exacting criteria outlined.
The second part of the session examined the theme of ‘planet’ (previous sessions covered ‘people’ and ‘place’) and encouraged the panel to identify recommendations which remove the barriers to achieving zero carbon homes. Viability, or the 'pricing in' of risk due to skills shortages, supply chain issues and limited procurement routes were reviewed - especially when targeting Passivhaus standards where the first casualty is often seeking full accreditation. The panel examined how timing is critical to align policy updates with the specialist skills available on frameworks, and many highlighted the need to align local authority implementation of CIL levels and policy relating to blue and green infrastructure (UGF and BNG etc).
Finally, the panel explored the benefits of increased biophilia in housing projects, and the wider social sustainability that could arise from long-term and effective stewardship. Creating cohesive and inclusive communities is a key goal for the panel, but there are no means to compare or measure the disparity of current examples. All agreed this should be explored further and saw the opportunity for a link up with the Well Being panel.