A recent think tank suggestion that high rise housing should simply be demolished is impractical and does not look for alternative ways to address the issues of this kind of accommodation.
Dave Cooke, Maintenance Director of Mila Window and Door Maintenance comments on the suggestions in the recent report from the policy exchange that high rise accommodation is effectively a failed experiment and that this kind of dwelling should be replaced with new developments of terraced streets.
“Like many people I read the recent report from the Policy Exchange on high rise housing and thought that in an ideal world, yes it would be nice if everyone could live in a house on a street. But the reality is that they cannot. When the governments in the 1960’sand 1970’s commissioned the construction of the near 4,500 blocks of flats, it was out of necessity and constraints on land. It is no coincidence that you look round every major city in the UK and all you can see is even more high rise accommodation being built. That tells you that in theory, this kind of accommodation is not a failure, and the reality is that we need these kinds of developments to ensure that we can house our population”
“That said, I understand where the author of the report Alex Morton is coming from when he looks at the disproportionate number of social housing tenants in this kind of accommodation particularly where children are concerned, and the down the line issues that this can bring, albeit I very much take the view that there are solutions”.
Among the statements in the report is that while ‘social housing tenants account for 21% of all households with children, the percentage of social housing tenants with children living above the fifth floor is 79%’. The policy makes a direct link between high rise living and greater instances of social breakdown and crime, poorer health, poorer education, and in children particularly, negative effects in their behavioural upbringing.
Dave returns to the subject “we have 25 years of experience of working in this kind of environment. As a company our whole business is based on maintenance and repairs in the social housing sector; we can relate to the thoughts in this report in that we also get a disproportionate amount of our business from this environment. There are no doubt a whole list of reasons for this, the age of the properties being one – largely having been built in the 1960’s and 1970’s, but also from our point of view the complexity of the windows and door specifications installed due to the particular technical demands of the environment and its additional health and safety considerations. When you look at the number of children living in this situation and the potential dangers that this brings it is understandable that the emphasis on maintenance is rightly greater than in other housing types”.
“What we feel however, is that where properties individually and globally within high rise blocks are fully and properly maintained the social consequences of living in that kind of accommodation are not automatically worse than in any other kind of housing. We believe that proper maintenance has a positive effect on the people living in the accommodation, and will help to avoid some of the social decline referred to in the report”.
“We have worked on many high rise accommodation blocks where the installation of new products and the on-going repair and maintenance thereafter has led to the re-creation of the community spirit that so many people bemoaned the demise of when low rise housing was cleared to make way for the high rise blocks in the first place. In our experience it is far too sweeping a statement to say that all high rise housing is a failure by its very design or existence, there are many blocks where people genuinely feel they are a part of a real community, and take great pride in their homes as a real community. Living in a block actually brings them together in a way it would not do if they lived in individual houses in a street”.
“Knocking the entirety of the UK’s high rise housing stock down is not likely to happen on any number of grounds; what landlords need to do is to ensure that the blocks are maintained regularly across all products and services, and this will lead to an entirely different feel in this kind of housing. There are many examples to support this, and in the economic times in which we live and are likely to continue to live for some time ahead, it is an extremely cost effective solution for landlords to not only maintain their assets, but to contribute significantly to a better social environment and all the benefits that this brings.”
Dave Cooke is Maintenance Director of Mila Window and Door Maintenance