How can we increase the quality of Housing Estates without gentrifying them ?
G.E.M — Guerrilla Estate Management
G.E.M. lies within the future of ethics in relation to council politics. By maintaining or renovating existing collective equipment for social housing across London, we aim to create a higher standard for living, and diffuse architectural knowledge, targeting the working social classes.
“The proportion of social homes that are sub-standard has barely fallen in recent years, as austerity policies mean government funding for housing improvements has dried up.
The new data comes from the government-commissioned English Housing Survey, which is published once a year and provides a snapshot of the state of housing.
It is likely to renew pressure on government ministers, local councils and housing associations to take action to improve the quality of social housing, especially in the wake of the Grenfell Tower disaster.”
Do events like Grenfell Tower fire need to happen for the architectural community to see the lack of care over working social classes environments ?
The actual distribution of architectural value as we know is highly inegalitarian. A typical client scheme contains 62% of developper projects, followed by 19% for council, 15% for private, and 4 % for other.
When actual architectural commissions mostly response to middle and elite social classes, (from developers, to rich individuals extensions, commercial building corporations) councils are the only option remaining for assessing needs of these classes.
But even when pubic commissions are decided, these social categories verdicts’s and basic requirements are rarely taken into consideration.
Guerrilla Estate Management wishes to address this major issue by using evidence based design, and providing minimum architectural services to social Estates.
In 2018, 525 000 homes did not meet the National Decent Homes standards, and 1 in 7 of them are social housing. The general quality of housing in the UK is also mediocre, about half of the new-built homes have major defaults. In some cases housing Estates need to be demolished because of the dreadful conditions of the populations, and because maintaining them is not profitable for anyone.
But in other cases, Housing Estates are actually good design, that have a permanent decent structure. Some of them are located in London’s central urban tissue, providing inclusivity and public services to the most vulnerable.
The practice focuses on these Estates, that are being badly maintained, and therefore have a shorter life than initially expected.
When these Estates are being destroyed because of lack of maintenance, the new buildings rarely provide for affordable prices, forcing thousands of people to move completely out of London.
How is it possible to redistribute architectural value to the ones that need it the most ?
How can we increase quality of Housing Estates without gentrifying them ?
Different strategies that are possible for enabling access to a standard level of architectural service can be done by :
-Executing small scale physical maintenance
-Provide green space maintenance
-Independent surveying and analysis of health related issues, such as air pollution in the context of the Estate, etc.
-Non behavioural data collection and distribution
-Spatial health and improvement analysis (obesogenic environment, noise, levels of pollution etc.)
These actions can be separated into two different action categories :
Recognising existing skills
Free cycle incentives
Reconstructing parks to encourage active activities
Greenspaces maintenance and improvement
Adding trees and flowers
Working with healthcare pros
Introducing Community food markets
Growing fresh fruit and veg in allotments
Free cycle schemes
Introducing Community markets
A way in which these standard services could be distributed would be by first changing the business model of the practice. Architectural practices as we know it are mainly founded by lump sums, time charge and hour rate, or getting percentage value on the construction cost.
A way that the financial model could be modified would be by using a model that opposes two different client typologies. Based on the long-tail model, or freemium structure, (usually used in the entertainment industry) that offers free services to a larger group, paid by the premium group.
This system could allow a flexible composition of client typologies, from member, to partner, to core partner. The range of services would depend on the degree of implication of each sub group:
Consortium badge and visibility, membership of online consortium groups, first private BETA access to the platforms, invitations to seminars for all.
Supporting the development for pilot projects, product or services, solution on the supply chain for partners. Establishing a R&D working group, or testing and launching a system-wide product or services in the supply chain for the core partners.
This scheme can be accompanied by governments grants, and subsidy payment, if the practice takes the community interest company structure.
Community Interest Company scheme
How does the practice register itself ?
Business models of charities, or NGO’s are not economically viable. The organisational structure of the practice would have to inspire from Community interest Companies. These organisations are non-profit based structures, that inspire to achieve social purpose, without sharing with shareholders.
Some advantages of these models is that they create a form of secure trust, and therefore receive from donors who take interest in secure and liable funds, for state purposes.
Some examples of already existing loans and grants :
Home renovation Incentives (HRI), Housing Adaptation Grant for people with a disability, Housing Aid for Older People Scheme, Mobility Aids Grant Scheme, Improvement works in lieu of local authority Housing, Local authority home improvement loans, Housing for older people, Better energy Homes scheme, Better Energy Warmer Homes scheme, Grant schemes to replace lead pipes and fittings, Grant for solar panels and battery systems, Repair and Leasing Scheme.
These types of structures offer a secure and flexible plan for those who manage the business, because they inspire from limited liability companies.
The Registrar will conduct the normal checks for registration and pass the papers to the Regulator of Community Interest Companies, to determine whether the company satisfies the community interest. Something to note is that CIC’s cannot be politically motivated.
The application of these strategies need an understanding of the context of the councils.
Depending on the borough, councils depend on different political strategies. Each political strategy will create a ‘hierarchy of urgency’ between Housing Estates :
What happens to an ageing Housing Estate within a conservative-orientated policy ?
Wandsworth Borough has the cheapest council Tax in whole of UK. Within that borough we looked at two housing Estates which are interesting to compare : Alton Estate, and Patmore Estate. One (Alton) is known to be one of the biggest in the UK. Surrounded by extremely wealthy dwellings, and greens spaces, what is the future for this kind of Estates?
The other is in a polluted area, surrounded by industrial buildings, and the biggest redevelopment plan in Europe : Nine Elms district.
It can be argued that these kinds of places need protection more than any other.
The reason why these sites are of interest as they represent the places where political policy has resulted in the greatest disparity in maintenance cost.
These estates deserve to be protected and maintained due to the general quality of the structure, spaces and design. Even in estates that have suffered from problematic design and structural elements.The only empathetic solution is through the protection and improvement of the existing fabric of these Estates.
How is it possible to address these political logics by keeping a ‘neutral’ policy for funding ?
Social & environmental knowledge
Guerilla Estate Management aim is also to provide a platform for communication between councils, populations, and architectural community.
By using non-behavioural data, architects are able to provide detailed surveys of how poor living conditions affect directly populations, and also the governmental structures on which they rely, Health”,(NHS), Education etc.
For this mission to work it is essential to communicate that no one benefits from the lack of care on the long term of these poorly living conditions.
More than one million children in England have bad housing. Poor housing conditions increase the risk of severe ill-health or disability by up to 25 per cent during childhood and early adulthood. For public infrastructures it means : “Lower educational attainment, greater likelihood of unemployment, and poverty, Increased risk of meningitis, asthma, and slow growth, which is linked to coronary heart disease”, consequences that will directly affect in terms of outcomes, education and health infrastructures.
There is already evidence that needs to be incorporated into design changes.
“Progress towards real change in policy and practice may seem slow; however, the opportunities afforded for health and planning professionals to work together provide a step towards the whole systems approaches to tackle health issues that are desperately needed.”
Obesogenic environments study, Durham University and Newcastle University