Housing contribution to regeneration
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Urban regeneration is becoming increasingly important given the failure of other approaches to address modern economic and social problems caused by capitalisation, urban growth and urbanisation phenomenon such; as social inequity, migration, health, poverty, hunger and the lack of jobs, skills and education.
Urban regeneration is seen as a potential solution through its roles in promoting the different environmental, economic, social and health benefits. However, there is no single prescribed form of urban regeneration practise. Urban regeneration schemes differ in terms of their size, type and the parties involved. According to Couch (1990), Urban regeneration began in the UK as the responsibility of the public sector in the 1960s. However this changed during the 1980s when economic growth became the main focus of urban regeneration. Brownill, (1999) argues that during this period public money was used through the market for deliver regeneration.
New policies in the 1990s and at the beginning of the 21st century focused on achieving public regeneration through public-private partnership (Hall, 2006), however the most recent policies attempt to go beyond that and involve local communities in the regeneration process via social enterprises, non-governmental organisations (NGOs), community based organisations (CBOs), and resident groups.
According to Tallon (2010) urban regeneration is “...a comprehensive and integrated vision and action which leads to the resolution of urban problems and which seeks to bring about a lasting improvement in the economic, physical, social and environmental conditions of an area that has been subject to change".
It is possible to divide urban regeneration into four different areas of focus which form the different aspects of society normally targeted:
- Economic: This is concerned with income, job creation, employment, employability, skills, and development.
- Social/cultural: such as education, crime, health, quality of life, housing, quality of public services.
- Physical/environmental: This includes the built and natural environment, infrastructure, transport and communications.
- Governance: This is related to the nature of engagement of the local community in local decision-making, involvement of other groups, and the style of leadership.
Housing has a significant role to play in urban regeneration because, firstly, it is an important part of the social/cultural dimension of regeneration, and secondly, because it is directly related to the wellbeing and welfare of communities. However, housing can contribute to regeneration indirectly due to its relationship with other economic, governance and physical/environmental issues.
Housing contributions to urban regeneration can be divided into direct contributions and indirect contributions or what might be called Housing Plus. The two different types of contributions have effects at the national, local and individual levels. Although it is difficult to separate these contributions from each other because there is such a strong relationship between them, it is important to introduce them separately to be able to understand the benefits and constraints of each, and how they are related to regeneration and housing.
 Housing Direct Contributions to Regeneration:
 The housing market and affordable housing:
Affordable housing is a key issue for achieving urban regeneration success. Affordable housing can be delivered using a number of mechanisms that can involve both the public and private sector. The best-known mechanisms are tax subsidies to home owners and private investors, support plans for private renting, public housing and housing vouchers.
According to Tallon (2010), “...The demand on housing especially affordable housing in a city is a symbol of success”. If there is a successful economy in a city, companies will tend to move there, which means more job opportunities and so an influx of workers. However, if there is a very high level of demand for housing, and low level of supply, housing prices will rise and so there is likely to be less affordable housing available. As a consequence, workers’ wages may increase resulting in companies relocating elsewhere. Alternatively, if housing supply exceeds demand, housing prices decrease causing major problems to the housing market and thus the whole economic system in the area.
In addition, affordable housing can deliver social equity and self-confidence, as more people can attain a stable life style. By increasing self-confidence, people can be more motivated to achieve a higher quality of life, education, participation in the community and health.
Housing plays a vital role in the health and wellbeing of a society. Housing quality can dramatically affect not only the physical, mental and social health of the household who are using this housing unit, but it often exceeds that by affecting other households in an area or even the whole community. Smith (1990) argues “...certain housing environments are directly harmful to public health.” There are direct links between health and housing quality, including; air quality, space standards, domestic noise, food storage facilities, sanitation, damp, cold and mould.
Evans (2003) suggested that noise, crowding, spatial hierarchy, territoriality, distance, natural elements and architecture all have major effects on mental health. If good housing is provided then it is possible to reduce criminal behaviour and thus improve community behaviour and lifestyle as a whole.
Ma (2008) also suggested that there are direct linkages between housing instability and food insecurity with health care access especially for the children of low-income households. Families with housing and diet related problems tend to not take their children to special health centres and so problems become more serious.
 Environmental sustainability:
Housing can play a significant role in achieving environmental sustainability. Apart from its direct effects on health, sustainable housing means less damage on the environment which can lead not only to a better quality of life for the present generation, but also for future generations. According to Stewart (2001), there was a very high level of energy inefficiency in British homes, and although most local authorities started programmes to limit this inefficiency, the overall use of energy is not declining.
It is possible to improve the sustainability of housing by creating standards and restrictions such as housing energy efficiency standards, promoting the use of renewable energy, the creation of houses and neighbourhoods with more sustainable infrastructure systems, as well as, planning and implementing effective schemes to control and monitor housing efficiency.
Housing, and especially affordable housing, is considered a key element in creating social equity, health and wellbeing. It can be used to improve public status and public health as well as reducing physical, mental and social problems. Housing regeneration plans and housing quality standards such as the Welsh Housing Quality Standards (WHQLS) can help achieve these goals more effectively. However, significant issues remain in the method of delivery and monitoring and the level of involvement of different parties in decision making.
 Housing Indirect Contributions to Regeneration (Housing Plus):
Housing can also contribute to regeneration indirectly. These contributions are often seen as being as important as the direct contributions.
Housing is often seen as a process rather than an end product. Governments, local authorities, NGOs and CBOs see the housing process as an opportunity to recruit people to provide them with skills, and to achieve environmental and governance benefits.
The process of public procurement is one of the key contributions to regeneration. As well as helping with ‘...the provision of decent housing, bringing empty houses back to the market, housing market restructuring, achieving quality of life for households, promoting health and education of the people’, it is possible to maximise the benefits by delivering education, health, jobs, skills, employment, development and higher levels of employability throughout implementing public procurement programmes.
Clapham (1996) suggests that through encouraging housing investments on different levels, it is possible to reduce unemployment both on the national and local levels throughout the creation of new job opportunities. Housing can also offer local and individual benefits such as providing people with skills and achieving welfare. To do this however, it is important that public procurement provides these workers with sufficient training first.
Housing organised through public procurement can also be used to promote improvement in the local economy by encouraging the use of local materials and services, or by using mechanisms which promote local firms and factories through partnerships with larger organisations.
 Environmental Benefits:
It is also possible to achieve further environmental benefits by using public procurement. This can be done by:
- Promoting the use of local recyclable building materials
- Limiting the type of machinery and utilities used in the construction process.
- Restricting methods of recycling waste and demolition materials.
Furthermore, by involving local residence and organisations, it is possible to increase understanding and the awareness of environment issues.
- Inter-generational equity, or as drawn from the Brundtland definition of sustainable development “Development which meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs”.
- Social equity and social justice.
- Geographical equity.
- Procedural equity.
- Inter-species equity.
 Tenant Control and Community Governance:
- By considering future households’ opinions, it is possible to avoid obstacles which might otherwise appear later.
- By involving different people in the process, they will feel connected to the regeneration programme and are likely to be more trusting of the process.
- The involvement of local people in the decision making process will often lead to a better understanding and awareness of the type and size of the challenges for both the government and the local people themselves.
Community governance, sometimes means shifting some the responsibilities of housing to the private sector. This can include full responsibility such as in the stock transfer in Wales between local authorities and local non-profit organisations, or part of the responsibilities such as housing maintenance. It can even attract private investment as Clapham (2000) suggested “...the attraction of the transfer is that it can make private finance available for regeneration, thus making the available public money stretch further”'.
However it can be argued that by shifting responsibilities to the private sector, local authorities might find it difficult to control housing and that new control system may be required. Furthermore this type of governance needs high levels of accountability. Collier (2005) asks, “Who is accountable? To whom are they accountable? For what are they accountable?” It is very important that the right criteria are adopted in the selection of partners.
According to the Homes (2006), Housing (2003), Inform2Involve (2008), and Inform2Involve (2006), The ‘Welsh Housing quality Standards’ (WHQS) and the ‘Can Do Toolkit’ introduced by the Welsh Housing assembly and Inform to Involve respectively, create a complete housing programme in Wales.
While the WHQS attempts to ensure that all housing stock owned by local authorities and registered social landlords (RSLs) in Wales achieve specific standards by 2012 and then maintain that standard over a 30 year period. This is intended to guarantee a higher level of quality of life by addressing health, social, environmental and safety issues.
The complementary Can Do Tollkit is intended to deliver greater regeneration benefits, such as providing employment, skills, education, environmental benefits, encouraging local contractors and local industries, and so on, Inform2Involve (2008) describes that as...
providing local people with:
- Learning, skills, employment and enterprise,
- Physical improvement of communities,
- Developing community property assets, and
- Eradicating fuel poverty and reducing the carbon footprint of existing and new buildings.
Although the whole programme of WHQS, WHQS plus and the ‘Can Do Toolkit’ is not expected to meet its goals by 2012, it is nonetheless possible to see measurable benefits in creating communities and delivering urban regeneration. By demanding minimum standards, it is possible to achieve environmental sustainability and to tackle physical, mental and social issues. However, other benefits such as providing job opportunities for local people, employment, skills improvements and so on, are generally difficult or expensive to measure. Without the appropriate monitoring and evaluation techniques, it is difficult to assess the success of the programme.
Other difficulties include changing the profile of local skills, by training and using local people for jobs in social housing or construction, which then disappear at the end of the programme. There are also concerns about how this programme can affect neighbouring deprived areas which do not have a regeneration programme and may have decreasing housing demand or falling population.
Housing can make a major contribution to urban regeneration, and it is vital for housing be considered in each regeneration plan and its potential implications to be observed closely when planning for any regeneration plan.
However, whilst housing can contribute positively to regeneration programmes by enhancing the quality of life and wellbeing of a community through providing jobs, skills, employment, employability, health, equity and economic improvements and so on, it does have constraints. The main positive impacts and the constraints associated with each of them are summarised in the table below.
Potential Positive Impacts
Issues and Constraints
Housing market and Affordable housing
Equity, Self-Confidence, Education, Economic improvements…etc.
Delivering technique, Type, Demand-Supply balance, Control, Planning…etc.
Key to health and wellbeing
Improving health, Crime reduction, Decrease the impacts of hunger…etc.
Controlling technique e.g. Housing Standards, Who is Involved, Monitoring…etc.
Controlling and Monitoring techniques e.g. Housing Standards, Who is Involved, Efficiency versus Cost…etc.
Provision of Jobs, Skills, Employment, Education, Employability, Health and Social levels improvement, Local economic and production promotion…etc.
Difficult to attract companies, Monitoring and Evaluation challenges, Way of delivery, Speed…etc.
Environment promotion, Increase local residents environmental awareness, Equity…etc.
Difficult to evaluate, Environment versus Cost, Difficulties in attracting companies, Level of involvement and how?
Tenant Control and Community Governance
Overcome different obstacles before it starts, Earning community trust and thus support, Control or even stop corruption, Increase public awareness and understanding, attract private investments…etc.
Who is involved, Level of involvement, accountability and trust, Identify responsibilities…etc.
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- Changing lifestyles.
- Consultation process.
- City Beautiful.
- Fuel poverty.
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 External references
- Inform2Involve, 2008. WHQS plus: maximising benefits across Wales. Wales.
- BROWNILL, S. 1999. Turning the East End into West End: the lessons and legacies of the London Docklands Development Corporation. In: IMRIE, R. & THOMAS, H. (eds.) British Urban Policy: An Evaluation of the Urban Development Corporations. 2nd Edition ed. London: Sage.
- CLAPHAM, D. 2000. Housing in Wales : the policy agenda in an era of devolution. Policy and practice series. Coventry: Chartered Institute of Housing.
- CLAPHAM, D., WALKER, R., MEEN, G., THAKE, S. & WILCOX, S. 1996. Building homes building jobs: Housing and economic renewal. National Housing Forum.
- COLLIER, P. M. 2005. Governance and the quasi-public organization: a case study of social housing. Critical Perspectives on Accounting, 16, 929–949.
- COUCH, C. 1990. Urban renewal : theory and practice, London, Macmillan Education.
- EVANS, G. W. December 2003. The Built Environment and Mental Health. Journal of Urban Health: Bulletin of the New York Academy of Medicine, 80.
- HALL, T. 2006. Urban geography, London, Routledge.
- HAUGHTON, G. 1999. Environmental Justice and the Sustainable City. Journal of Planning Education and Research 18, 233-243.
- HOMES, R. 2006. Formal Consultation. Cardiff: Rhondda Cynon Taf.
- HOUSING, C. I. O. & CORPORATION, T. H. January 2003. The Community Gateway Model. Empowering Communities. Coventry: Chartered Institute of Housing.
- Inform2Involve, 2008. The Can Do Toolkit 2. (ed.) SME - Friendly Procurement. Wales: Inform to Involve.
- INFORM2INVOLVE & WALES, C. E. I. 2006. Lessons Learnt on Stock Transfer in Wales. CEW. Wales.
- MA, C. T., GEE, L. & KUSHEL, M. B. January 2008. Associations Between Housing Instability and Food Insecurity With Health Care Access in Low-Income Children. Ambulatory Pediatrics, 8, 50-57.
- SAUNDERS, P. 1984. Beyond housing classes: the sociological significance of private property rights in means of consumption. International Journal of Urban and Regional Research, 8, 202-227.
- SMITH, S. J. 1990. Health Status and the Housing system. 31.
- STEWART, J. 2001. Environmental health and housing, London, Spon Press.
- TALLON, A. & BOOKS, D. 2010. Urban regeneration in the UK. London: Routledge.
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