One hundred years since the 1919 Addison Act paved the way for the country’s programme of mass council housing, the prize for the best new building in the UK has been awarded to one of the first new council housing projects in a generation. Goldsmith Street in Norwich represents what has become a rare breed: streets of terraced homes built directly by the council, rented with secure tenancies at fixed social rents. And it’s an architectural marvel, too. The 105 creamy-brick homes are designed to stringent Passivhaus environmental standards, meaning energy costs are around 70% cheaper than average. The walls are highly insulated and the roofs are cleverly angled at 15 degrees, to ensure each terrace doesn’t block sunlight from the homes behind, while letterboxes are built into external porches, rather than the front doors, to reduce any possibility of draughts. Goldsmith Street was funded by a mix of borrowing, council reserves and right-to-buy receipts, but Harris said they could do so much more if the right to buy was reformed. This year’s choice sends a clear message that, despite government cuts, it is eminently possible for brave councils to take the initiative and build proper social housing. With a recent survey suggesting that more than two-thirds of local authorities are directly engaged with delivering housing again, through a variety of methods, there may come a time when projects like Goldsmith Street are not an anomaly.
Guardian 8th Oct 2019 read more »