As debate in New Zealand moves onto affordable housing we should look at what Len Brown, Labour and the Green taliban are actually proposing…building up not out…and how that has worked out around the world…like in the UK:
The Policy Exchange report – Create Streets by Alex Morton and Nicholas Boys Smith – details how terrible tower blocks are for urban living. As well as ruining our city horizons, they encourage crime and social alienation. Residents of high-rise blocks are more liable to stress, mental health difficulties, and marriage breakdowns. Children living in tower blocks suffer from increased hyperactivity, hostility and juvenile delinquency – even when you adjust for socio-economic status.
Tower blocks are lethal, too: last week, an inquest opened into the 2009 fire in Lakanal House, in Camberwell, south London, which killed six people. With only one stairwell, it was hard for people to get out, and falling debris from the first fire set off many more fires. The tower was due to be demolished but Southwark Council had decided to refurbish it instead. And still the towers go on being built: between 2003 and 2007, there was a seven-fold increase in high-rise building.
Labour, Greens and Len Brown talk of higher density housing, by building up around rail corridors…when the reality is that housing like that being built around Flat Bush is far preferable…if only intransigent politicians would free up land.
Tower blocks aren’t even that good at providing high-density housing. With all the dead, unused land that surrounds their footprints, their average density – 75 to 200 flats per hectare – is lower than terraced houses.
Vertical growth is the opposite to the traditional journey of the British city over the last 400 years. From the 17th century until the 1950s, cities expanded outwards, naturally, organically, in a series of low-rise, domestic-scale streets of terraced houses. The British love of the individual family home meant that Georgian, Victorian and Edwardian buildings were kept low-rise – connected to each other horizontally, not vertically.