August 15, 2019
George Clarke is well known for his many TV shows about architecture and houses, such as George Clarke’s Amazing Spaces, but his new show looks set to up the ante by challenging the government to tackle the current council housing crisis. This is an issue that we feel very strongly about at metroSTOR and we fully support Clarke’s call on the government to build 100,000 quality council homes per year.
In a recent interview with Inside Housing, the former architect plugged his new Channel 4 show, George Clarke’s Council House Scandal, which started on 31 July to mark the 100th anniversary of the Addison Act – the legislation that laid the foundation for council housing in the UK. In the interview, Clarke also made clear his dissatisfaction – and in some cases horror – with the quantity and quality of council housing seen in the country today. According to him, “We have just failed to provide truly affordable homes for the people who need them the most” and he agrees with Shelter’s view that the housing shortage counts as a “national emergency”.
However, Clarke doesn’t suggest that the answer is simply to up the numbers because it is also a problem related to the poor quality of current housing. Through his work, Clarke has seen numerous new-build developments and he has often been horrified by the quality on display. This situation hasn’t arisen by chance, however, because he feels that the current housing policy is focused on numbers at the expense of quality: “The frightening thing is that if it is just a numbers game, we are going to make all the mistakes we have made in the past,” he says, referring to the poor quality of some of the tower blocks built in the 1960s.
Another area of concern is the standard of office blocks converted into homes without planning permission. This system of permitted development rights (PDR) has been in place since 2013, when the coalition government deregulated the planning system, and up to 100,000 homes have been created as a result. “It is like going back to the slums of the 1950s and ‘60s. It is small spaces, badly designed, no long-term strategy, get them in there, charge the benefit system, get the profits in and make money out of it.”
Petition to build 100,000 council homes a year
In his new show, Clarke not only highlights the failings of the current system but also tries to deliver solutions. Specifically, he has launched a new campaign calling on the government to commit to building 100,000 council homes a year for the next 30 years (you can sign up to his petition at https://www.change.org/p/uk-parliament-commit-to-building-100-000-new-council-houses-every-year-for-30-years). He’s also doing what he does best by working with Manchester City Council to design and build new council homes in the city for another programme that will be screened in 2020.
The controversial Right to Buy scheme, introduced by Margaret Thatcher in the 1980s, also comes under fire from Clarke and he thinks it should be suspended until council housing numbers have been boosted to his suggested level. This is because he believes that “… for every council house sold off, the state should have provided another one” which clearly hasn’t happened in the past.
Overall, we think that Clarke raises some very valid questions about the current state of the council housing system, which is clearly failing some of the most vulnerable members of society. We fully support his campaign to see 100,000 quality council homes built every year and we’ll be watching his new show with interest!