Simon Bayliss contributed to the Neighbourhoods of the Future writing an artic...">
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Simon Bayliss writes 'Creating an Opportunity out of a Crisis'

Simon Bayliss contributed to the Neighbourhoods of the Future writing an article on the opportunity of our changing needs to drive better quality housing. HTA were really pleased to be involved in this wide reaching and crucial study into how we might create the neighbourhoods that would continue to meet our needs as we grow older. It is surely a cause for celebration that we are all living much longer, but we need to re-evaluate the impact of an aging population on how and where we live, to ensure that design and technology make an opportunity of the current housing crisis.

Creating an Opportunity out of a Crisis

If there is an urgent need to reconsider how we best respond to the changing housing needs of our population, then it is perhaps no coincidence that this is against the backdrop of a more general housing crisis in the UK. The chronic housing shortage, caused by a long period of undersupply, has been exacerbated by the building of the wrong sort of houses to suit the way we live. But we are hopeful that a growing understanding of how we best respond to the changing physical needs of an ageing population will create the political drive and economic means to deliver the right housing in the neighbourhoods of the future. It is this that will transform our way of life for generations to come.

Whilst acknowledging the challenges we face, it is surely a fact to celebrate that we are all living much longer. Sustained improvements in our standards of living, advancements in medicine and nutrition, and the mechanisation of many of the more physically damaging jobs of the past should be hailed as major progress that is all to the benefit of our society.

The opportunities created by these additional years of life are threatened by new health issues arising through increasingly sedentary lifestyles, and perhaps the more pernicious threat, the impact of loneliness on health. The increased isolation experienced by people living longer and more alone is in contrast to the trend of urbanisation, where we choose to live ever closer together. By 2030, it is expected that over 90% of the UK population will be living in cities, providing the opportunity to radically rethink the types of homes we need and the quality of neighbourhood we deserve.

The lamentable quality of much of the housing currently being delivered in the UK would seem to offer few solutions. Over a period of 40 years, successive UK Governments have put their faith in the private market to deliver the population's housing needs. There is now widespread acknowledgement that this faith was misplaced and that the market needs fixing.

Although this market failure was ostensibly focused around the shortfall in numbers of homes completed, it is also now acknowledged that the building of more homes will only be a success, indeed might only be possible, if coupled with significant improvements in quality. Better quality homes, both in terms of design and construction, within more successful and sustainable places. Homes that support mixed communities and neighbourhoods and which enable a higher standard of health and wellbeing for all residents.

We must strive to create walkable neighbourhoods, with local facilities that promote cycling and reduce the impact of the car on the public realm and environment. Successful places need networks of green spaces, trees and outdoor amenities that encourage physical activity and benefit mental health. They can also include advances in technology to enable self-driving, shared access and the rental of travelling time rather than the ownership of individual transportation. This will fundamentally influence and shape the places we create.


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