Joost Beunderman: ‘the shape of things to come’

As I write this, the regeneration sector is getting more and more nervous about the impact of budget cuts on their organisations and programmes; earlier this week, a New Start Magazine headline read “Closure prompts call for sector to ‘hold its nerve’”, quoting the chief executive of the Centre for Local Economic Strategies about the closure of Hull’s regeneration company and asking ‘is this the shape of things to come’.

The debate about the way we shape our future communities seems more and more caught up in the question how we finance them. Remarks by the new Housing minister Grant Shapps that “the cash for affordable housing has run out” help to create a sense of impending doom.

But the origins of the Young Foundations’ Future Communities programme – and consistently negative data on housing quality from organisations like CABE – show that the need to re-think how we do regeneration and housing growth was evident well before the bust. Much of the mediocre (or downright awful) developments built over the last 10 years – or being built still – run the risk of becoming the ghettos of tomorrow; and not because of their aesthetics but because of inbuilt liabilities like insufficiently reduced energy use, miserly space standards precluding flexibility over time, poor integration into urban surroundings and lack of attention to the social processes that can create a community in a new development.

Against this background…