United Kingdom

Britain's Planning Laws: Of Houses, Chickens and Poverty

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Perhaps for the first time in nearly seven decades a serious debate on housing affordability appears to be developing in the United Kingdom. There is no more appropriate location for such an exchange, given that it was the urban containment policies of the Town and Country Planning Act of 1947 that helped drive Britain's prices through the roof. Further, massive damage has been done in countries where these polices were adopted, such as in Australia and New Zealand (now scurrying to reverse things) as well as metropolitan areas from Vancouver to San Francisco, Dublin, and Seoul.  read more »

Why British Prosperity is Hobbled by a Rigged Land Market

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The British have the least living space per head, the most expensive office rents and the most congested infrastructure of any EU-15 country. Thanks to a rapidly growing population –  the result of a healthy birth-rate and immigration – these trends are worsening steadily. At the same time, the British economy is languishing in a prolonged slump brought on by a collapse of demand. The answer is obvious: Britain needs to build more. Unfortunately, the obstacles to development are formidable.  read more »

Britain's Housing Crisis: The Places People Live

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For twenty years British house building has fallen behind demand, forcing up prices and rents. Here's a series of photos showing some of the things people have had to do to live.

Victoria Campbell was living in a shed in her parents' garden in Havant, while she and her fiance saved up for a deposit, but the Council has told her that she has to move out.  read more »

The Drive-It-Yourself Taxi: A Smooth Ride?

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Despite a corporate sponsor that paid handsomely for the naming rights, Londoners stubbornly refer to our bikesharing system as ‘Boris Bikes’, in a nod to our colourful Mayor, Boris Johnson. But what will we call our new drive-it-yourself taxis? My suggestion: ‘Boris Cabs’ – and they are now a reality here, thanks to Daimler’s car2go service, if you happen to live in one of three small and separate sections of town. But why did a one-way carsharing system have to limp into London, when more than a dozen other cities have welcomed these arrangements with open arms? In the US, car2go first appeared in Austin, Texas, and since then has moved into Washington, D.C, Miami, Portland Oregon, San Francisco, San Diego, and Seattle. It operates in Canada  read more »

Postwar Prefabs: Britain's Factory-Made Palaces

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After the financial crisis of 2008, much of Great Britain's construction industry capacity was wiped out. Now, in 2012, there is much fear that the “traditional” construction industry is too weak to rapidly increase the rate of housing production, even if the administrative planning system wanted it to. Which it doesn’t.  read more »

Housing: How Capitalism and Planning Can Co-Habit

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Did Britain’s New Labour party conspire against land development? Is it responsible for outdated, “socialist” land planning policies?

The British Conservative Party’s favourite think tank, Policy Exchange, would have us think so. Its latest report aims to demonstrate that the British planning system is socialist rather than capitalist. Why Aren’t We Building Enough Attractive Homes? - Myths, misunderstandings and solutions, by Alex Morton takes on the British planning system that dates from the 1947 Town and Country Planning Act.  read more »

Gentrification? Brixton's Angell Town Story

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In the US, urban planners talk about the 'redevelopment' of a neighborhood. In the UK, 'regeneration' is heard more often. What is the difference, from both the planner and the resident perspective? Are they both synonyms for 'gentrification'? Angell Town , a UK 'estate' in Brixton — it would be called a 'public housing project' by Americans — provides a good example of how these questions are answered in practice.  read more »

London’s Social Cleansing

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Unscrupulous landlords are forcing poorer tenants out of their London homes, freeing them up to rent out to visitors to the Olympics this summer, according to the housing charity Shelter. At the same time, the government’s cap on rent subsidies (Housing Benefits) for those out of work or on low incomes threaten to force less well-off tenants out of the capital. Newham Mayor Sir Robin Wales says that they will have to move people as far afield as Stoke-on-Trent if they are to meet their obligations to house the homeless.  read more »

World Urban Areas Population and Density: A 2012 Update

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The latest edition of Demographia World Urban Areas has just been released. The publication includes population estimates, urban land area estimates and urban densities for all nearly 850 identified urban areas in the world with a population of 500,000 or more. These urban areas account for approximately 48% of the world's urban population. Overall, data is provided for approximately 1500 urban areas, comprising approximately 1.9 billion people, or 52% of the world's urban population.  read more »

Welcome Back, Britain! Why The U.K. Doesn't Need The E.U.

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To some, British Prime Minister David Cameron’s decision to demur from the new euro rescue plan has made the U.K. irrelevant on the world scene. Yet by moving away from the euro zone, Cameron did something more than reaffirm Britain’s opposition to a German-led Europe: He asserted Britain’s greater, historically grounded legacy as the center of the Anglophone world.  read more »