The third meeting of the Housing Expert Panel was held at Montegu Evans offices on the twelfth storey of 70 St Mary Axe - benefitting from spectacular views towards several of London's new and emerging housing neighbourhoods.
The full panel agenda included a 'stress test' of the draft housing recommendations, progressed by three working group since February. The recommendations have recently been summarized in a white paper for presentation to the All Chair Panel. The wide-ranging subjects continue to be explored under the collective themes of People, Place and Planet.
Prisca Thielmann, Associate Director at Maccreanor Lavington set-out the working group recommendations for future mayoral ballots on existing estates, covering the importance of voter eligibility, engagement methods and transparency. Discussion centred on approaches to de-risk the process for development agencies and how to avoid the potential tensions of competing opinions, especially in the event of a 'close' outcome with no overall majority.
Further points set out during the People themed discussion:
- Best practice engagement promotes empowerment, choice and stewardship
- Most agreed that deep retro-fit of estates would warrant a ballot process
- All the panel agreed that a development aim (ballot statement) of 'not worse off' was a low bar and should not be a stated outcome
- Infill at scale (size to be determined - and not single sites) should include a ballot to get neighbourhood buy-in - but within the 'red line' only
- Proposals should aim to commit to a ‘single move’ for residents - avoiding double decant (or more!)
- What steps can be taken to reduce 50/50 voting splits in communities often where the perception is that half will benefit, and half will be disadvantaged. This outcome can divide rather than unite a neighbourhood.
- Miranda McLaren of Morris + Company shared an interesting and recent case study where an estate voted overwhelmingly for redevelopment, but surrounding neighbours perceived that they would be disadvantaged, and their objections to the planning submission led to a committee refusal. The ballot here had the impact of polarising a previously harmonious community
Isabel Pietri, Product Architectural Lead at Lendlease Europe outlined the unintended consequences of government guidance currently being prepared in siloes - legislation is currently being developed on significant and emotive topics such as zero carbon, building safety and beauty, and many have competing requirements.
The panel discussed how the policy landscape could respond to ensure placemaking for homes is prioritised across legislative frameworks; and how policy making needs a clear and transparent chronology to build trust and avoid cancellation of housing programmes:
Further points set out during the Place themed discussion:
- There are currently 125,000 stalled or delayed homes as a result of the second staircase ruling. Building status has not been defined for this regulation and so programmes at all stages from planning to on-site have been delayed or cancelled.
- An example of unintended consequences is the use of timber in construction - prohibited under building safety but required to achieve net zero
- How do we evolve guidance to capture the specifics of different sites, end-uses, typologies (from the urban to suburban boroughs); and therefore, to what extent should regulations be centralized by the GLA or devolved to individual boroughs
- Most agreed that centralized baselines should be established across London, with individual boroughs outlining only where they require additionality - a succinct list of supplementary requirements
- How do we modernize legislation to be performance-led and informed by open-source performance and post-occupancy data?
Kathryn Tombling Architect Director, Head of Housing London at BDP presented the working group recommendations to help remove barriers to achieving zero carbon homes. Working closely to align outcomes with the NLA net zero panel, Kathryn noted that emerging Future Homes Standards will ensure new homes achieve zero operational carbon targets. The challenge, but biggest opportunity, lies in improving existing housing stock - extensive retro-fitting of homes and upgrade of the landscape in-between:
Further points set out during the Planet themed discussion:
- The GLA have started to highlight best practice so that exemplars can 'Be Seen' in London. Aim for this map to cover London in detail and reflect the New York NYSERDA zero-emission report.
- The working group are to identify the measures that could support existing homeowners to obtain grants for retro-fit, and share further ideas on how to unlock funding for larger housing programmes
- Working group to review solutions to plug the sustainability skills gap in Local Authorities. Public Practice have a number of sustainability placements but how and where are these distributed across the boroughs? How else can this be approached to share knowledge
- Monetising carbon. Non-occupant landowners do not see a 'return on investment' for higher sustainability standards (lower energy bills etc) but VAT on refurbishment and carbon taxes are complicating the agenda - working group to investigate where this money is currently spent in London and how this can be improved.
The group are undertaking fantastic work in each of the people, place and planet working groups and are looking forward to developing their recommendations for the NLA’s New London Agenda.