ZHA principal calls for capitalist revolution

Patrik Schumacher

Britain’s paternalistic “affordable” housing system is failing to provide homes for the people who need them most, Patrik Schumacher has said.

The Zaha Hadid Architects principal called for a capitalist revolution because the cost to the whole country of the failure was enormous.

Opening up the “magic of the market” would be a more effective means of bringing about justice in housing, he said in a piece published in the Guardian this week.

“The affordable housing scheme does not deliver homes to the poorest members of society,” he wrote. “Rather it is a huge redistribution machine now meant to encompass a full 50% of all new housing supply.”

Housing was an essential and cherished commodity and rightly one of the UK’s biggest markets but had become one of the “most politicised, suffocating under quasi-socialist political interventionism”, wrote Schumacher, who ruffled feathers two years ago when he advocated building on Hyde Park and scrapping social housing as part of a bonfire of red tape.

In his piece in the Guardian yesterday he said the loss of prosperity in society was enormous “not only because of poor housing provision, but because of its stifling impact on all economic activities. That’s why the need for a capitalist revolution is so urgent”.

He argued that more people should be able to live in the centre of cities and that it was planning restrictions like space standards and zoning restrictions that prevented this.

“Let’s risk more freedom and self-responsibility, and allow creative energies to be unleashed so that we can make the best use of the space available,” he wrote. “That’s what markets do best. The freedom of mixing land uses is crucial for the vitality of the city. Only a creative process of trial and error, guided by market prices, can find the best uses for individual sites. Urban planning teams lack the requisite knowledge, as well as the agility and the incentive, to optimise land use.”

He advocated “experimentation with new models of living beyond the stifling space standards”, suggesting smaller units and co-living.

“It should be left to us if we want to trade centrality for size, or whether we mind the number of units sharing a core, or whether we are really bothered by being overlooked, or whether balconies are a necessary ingredient,” he said.

“All these paternalistic handcuffs must be replaced by our choices. What will really protect us is not politicians taking choices away – that can only make us poorer – but a lively competition among different suppliers with different products to choose from.”