The Home of 2030 design competition result was announced by the housing minister last week (full disclosure, igloo was part of one of the joint winning teams). In the next stage of this process, Homes England is introducing the shortlist to its development panel members, a move that brought to mind the recommendations made by the Building Better, Building Beautiful Commission (BBBBC). It observed that, without changes to Homes England’s targets and procurement policy, the agency was subsidising ugliness. The same might be said about climate change and building obsolescent homes.
Victoria Hills, chief executive of the RTPI, was quoted in the BBBBC’s report, Living with beauty, as saying, ”Procurement is important – don’t reward poor design, reward places that put good design at the heart of delivery”. In particular, the BBBBC report called on Homes England to “value design as well as price”.
This has echoes in the article in The Guardian on the Homes of 2030 shortlist, which says, “Much of the content of both winning schemes stands as a rebuke to the kind of identikit suburban-minded homes churned out by most volume builders today – a stance made explicit by the teams’ reaction to the prize on offer.
“The shortlisted teams all got together, and we thought: if the first prize is being introduced to a developer, who may or may not choose us to bid for a site, in a context where everyone is bidding based on who can pay the most money for the land… Well, we all wondered what the second prize would be.”
Perhaps that’s the key lesson from the Home of 2030 for all of us. If we leave everything to the untrammelled market, we will continue to get the placemaking we have always had. If we want to be building places that the neighbours will love and support, we need to change the way we do development.
Meanwhile, the six teams shortlisted for the Home of 2030 competition have decided to do two things. With the support of, and funding from, Sunderland City Council, we are drawing up a plan to build all six designs as part of the Sunderland Expo 2023, which will kick off the 1,000 home Riverside Sunderland development in the city centre and showcase new ideas for future living.
This hits many of the government’s policy priorities, set out in the Conservative party manifesto for the last election, and now starting to be funded through the one-year spending review, such as levelling up and zero carbon, as well as good design and more new homes. No doubt, they will also appear in Homes England’s corporate objectives under new chair Peter Freeman.
The teams also decided to try and communicate the key aspects of the six entries to as wide an audience as possible. We certainly don’t have all the answers, but we have been given an opportunity to focus for a few months on answering some of the big current questions about new housing, and the least we can do now is to join the conversation.
Chris Brown is executive chairman of Igloo Regeneration.