Skyscrapers or Bungalows? How Dense Can You Get?

Skyscrapers or Bungalows? How Dense Can You Get?

We’ve all heard the joke about ‘Bungalow Bill’, the well-endowed lover who doesn’t have much upstairs. What we don’t hear much about is how the single-storey staple of 1960s house builders became a virtual laughing stock barely half a century later.     Instructive in understanding this phenomenon is to look back, not so much in anger, but in suspended disbelief. When it came to house building in the 60s, Britain dreamed big. It also dreamed gentle. The competing notions of thrusting modernistic tower blocks conflicted culturally with sedate single-level bungalows. In those days, of course, there wasn’t the same pressure to build as many homes as possible on whatever land was available. Housing density simply wasn’t an issue. Having said that, the idealism that reigned in some local authority quarters made a massive impact. ‘Building high’ came straight out of Central Planning where town hall apparatchiks had likely gorged on too much Aldous Huxley. Bungalows, on the other hand, were for dreamers of a different ilk – earnest, almost-middle-class types, fattened on a televisual feast of stateside colonial clapboard and a picket-fenced Stepford Wives utopia. Fast forward 60 years where we inhabit another world. Today, the multi-storey concrete-slab temples of Bauhaus-inspired civic pride are hugely discredited – despite still featuring prominently in urban planning future-scapes. For totally different reasons, the bungalow (on the face of it) looks like a spent shilling. To confirm its apparent indigence as a design concept, the National House Building Council tells us that only one per cent of homes built in the UK in 2014 were bungalows.   Why So? It wasn’t always... Read more...
Manchester – Just Another UK Property Tale?

Manchester – Just Another UK Property Tale?

  The news that property ‘ownership’ in the Manchester area has slumped to ever-new levels isn’t just bad news for first-time buyers. It’s also bad news for all right-minded people who hope that the UK economy will one day shrug off its imbalances and head towards what Theresa May has declared will be a society that’s equal for everyone. Maybe we should ponder the statistics of so-called ‘ownership’ a little more carefully. The term refers for the most part to those with a mortgage (whose homes are effectively ‘owned’ by their bank or building society). Those who own their homes outright are in the minority. Since the financial crisis of 2009, mortgages have been more difficult to come by, and especially so for would-be first-time buyers. In addition, house prices across much of the country (and particularly in cities) are now hopelessly out of kilter with incomes. For some, even saving for a 5% deposit (for a 95% mortgage) is a massive ask. This is especially the case where most of their income is swallowed up by rent. Apologists for the burgeoning buy-to-let private landlord sector blame high house prices for high rents.   In fairness, what they’re saying is that there aren’t enough houses being built to meet demand – hence the spiraling house prices that show no signs of abating. Even in the post-Brexit era of ultra-low interest rates, the stumbling block for most young people hoping to hop onto the housing ladder is raising the deposit. Despite various government-backed schemes to help first-time buyers, high house prices are still locking out a whole generation of buyers. The... Read more...