Winner of the 2019 RIBA Stirling prize, these eco-friendly homes are one of the first new council housing projects in a generation.
Goldsmith Street in Norwich is made up of 105 council homes let out for social rent. Norwich City Council’s original plans to sell the site to a local housing provider was scuppered by the 2008 financial crisis, so in 2012 the city decided to develop the site itself. Designed by Mikhail Riches with Cathy Hawley, the project won the prestigious 2019 RIBA Stirling prize for the best building in the UK.
The homes have been designed to strict Passivhaus standards, meaning that the houses are as airtight as possible and use heat from the sun, human occupants, household appliances and extract air to warm the home. The building does not lose much heat, meaning that the homes need hardly any heating at all. Energy costs are expected to be around 70% cheaper on average. Parking spaces are set around the perimeter of the areas so the streets are primarily oriented around pedestrians.
Gail Harris, Norwich City Council’s deputy leader and cabinet member for social housing, told the Guardian: “It’s already won lots of awards, which is lovely, and other councils are really envious, but that’s not the point. It’s about people having good quality homes and low fuel bills. And we plan to build a lot more.”
New rules needed
Policies that can help unleash the potential of this or similar initiatives across the UK.
Reform compulsory purchase laws
Changes would mean that public authorities, rather than landowners, would capture the uplift in land value.
Austerity has pummelled living standards and public services. Now is the time to end it.
Close the viability loophole
Stop private developers from evading affordable housing requirements.
Create a Public Land Bank
End the fire sale public land and instead use surplus land to form the basis for a Public Land Bank.
Roll out universal basic services
Quality public services allow us all to live better lives, and should be expanded beyond health and education.
Create a Land Development Corporation
A corporation with the power to purchase, develop and sell land can ensure it is managed in the public interest.
Create devolved ‘just transition’ funds
Government should devolve a proportion of its Green New Deal budget to support local just transition plans.
Create a Common Ground Trust
Buying land from underneath houses and leasing it to members will expand the number of people ready to buy a house.
Increase the supply of social housing
Expanding social housing is the only way government can meet its 300,000 target for new homes each year.
Replace GDP with better measures of national success
Better headline indicators – that reflect the things we really want – are essential for better policymaking.