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

Claire Bennie

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.

Culture

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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