It takes more than a design guide to produce quality council housing

Claire Bennie

Source: Taran Wilkhu Photography

Governance, procurement and culture are the real hurdles, says Claire Bennie

As the brand new national housing design guide was launched last week, I couldn’t help asking myself what its impact would be on councils, who are set to lead about 10% of our national housing output in the next few years.

“Standards”, while important, are often the least of council challenges, as they are set and mandated through planning and funding mechanisms. A year working with five London councils has shown me it’s actually internally generated issues of culture, governance and procurement that have more impact on achieving high-quality housing than any external guidance.


Commissioning new housing is seen by some councils as a technocratic, project management exercise, with a bit of social value bolted on in the form of local jobs. But in fact the commissioning of new public homes has a proud 100-year history of ambition, innovation and soul – even if the results were sometimes flawed.

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