London's housing shortage: Mayor considers fresh ideas, from floating suburbs and a new mega-city, to streets of Friends-style rental homes

Ten innovative approaches have been selected from 200 entries as winners of the New London Architecture international ideas competition to help solve London's housing shortage.
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Generation Rent should brush up on their DIY skills and prepare themselves to live among strangers – because two ideas to be considered by London Mayor Boris Johnson on how to solve the capital's housing crisis include offering cut-price homes to first-time buyers which need to be fitted out, and creating streets full of purpose-built shared houses for them to rent.

Both concepts have been selected as winning ideas in an international competition launched by New London Architecture, the design think tank, and Mr Johnson, in an attempt to find creative solutions to the shortage.

The winning schemes - which also include a neighbourhood of floating prefabricated starter homes along the capital's canal network and plans for a mega-city near the M25 - will be presented to the Greater London Authority, which will study their feasibility as options for the future of the London housing market. 


“Generation Rent becomes Generation Float”
Baca Architects’ proposal provides for thousands of new floating homes within a year, built along the capital's 50-mile canal network.

“Currently underused, this space has the potential to deliver as many as 7,500 prefabricated floating starter homes with minimal disruption to existing communities," explains the entry from Baca Architects and Floating Homes Ltd, which supplies prefab floating homes priced from £150,000 (plus VAT).

Shared homes for renters - Friends style
By Natasha Reid Design

The purpose-built shared house is put forward by Natasha Reid Design. She suggests building whole streets filled with homes to be rented, room by room, by sharers - like the TV sitcom Friends.

These new mass-produced, modular shared houses are proposed as standardised components, to speed up delivery, reduce construction costs and regulate minimum levels of space standards. This, suggests Reid, would give Generation Rent an inexpensive alternative to fighting for sometimes substandard accommodation on the private rental market. 

Part-built homes for 40 per cent less
dRMM architects

The shortlist also includes several plans for offering first-time buyers part-built homes at knockdown prices – which they could then customise as they pleased. The idea from leading architectural practice dRMM introduces the concept of “ready to camp in” homes which would be waterproof, insulated, and fit to live in during the fit-out.

It estimates that a part-finished timber house would be 40 per cent cheaper than homes being sold at current market rates and, once built out, would be a great investment for young buyers.

“The way we are delivering new homes today just isn’t working,” says Peter Murray, chairman of New London Architecture. “London is only able to build half the number it needs each year. This competition shows how a bit of creativity, entrepreneurship and new thinking can help to fill that gap.”




Low-cost housing on top of existing public buildings such as hospitals, schools and libraries
WSP | Parsons Brinckerhoff

This idea is suggested by the engineering firm which worked on The Shard and is part of the development team of the High Speed 2 rail link.

It calculates there is room for 630,000 new flats on rooftops, and since developers would pay for the right to build the homes, the income could also be used to improve the public buildings they co-exist with.

According to research by the NLA, London needs almost 50,000 new homes to be built each year to house its current population and provide people moving to the capital with somewhere to live. At present homes are being built at a rate of between 20,000 to 25,000 a year.

Meanwhile, many owner-occupied homes have two or more spare bedrooms, and the proportion of 25- to 34-year-olds owning their own homes has fallen from 59 per cent to 36 per cent in less than a decade.

New Ideas for Housing, an exhibition featuring the 10 winning ideas, will be held at the NLA’s Gallery, The Building Centre, 26, Store Street, WC1E 7BT, from tomorrow to December 17.

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