Barnes: ‘re-densify’ suburbia to fix housing crisis

Yolande Barnes

Solving the housing crisis will mean “re-densifying” suburban areas and secondary cities, the head of world research at Savills said at the ULI Europe Conference.

Yolande Barnes said that governments need to look at housing in secondary cities as capitals like London and Paris become overcrowded.

She said: “We’re starting to see dispersed cities. The lack of affordability in capitals means there are now sufficient alternative cities where tech and creative industries are growing fast.

“We have to start thinking about solving the housing problem on a much wider, dispersed level. We need to look at re-densifying some of those places while still keeping communities intact.”

Michael Keith, director of the Centre on Migration, Policy and Society at Oxford University, said the political challenge of housing was addressing a tension between the benefits of migration and the strain it puts on services.

In the UK, for example, a quarter of migrants are students and the ones at Russell Group universities alone add around £4bn to the UK economy every year.

Keith said: “Migration works economically, and mostly there are greater benefits than there are costs. But in the context of housing, the unintended costs of migration and the unintended benefits are realised unevenly in the cities.

“The costs of migration – pressure on housing, schools, doctors’ surgeries and public goods in general – in any country in the world tend to be realised on the level of the small neighbourhood, and the benefits tend to be realised in the labour market in the city.”

James Murray, London’s deputy mayor for housing, agreed there was no silver bullet in solving the housing crisis.

However, he said there had been a “spirit of cooperation” between Sadiq Khan, London’s Labour mayor, and the Conservative government in addressing those issues.

Murray applauded the emphasis both sides have given to the need to build more and include the private rented sector in those discussions, which was a shift, he said, from the government’s previous efforts to focus entirely on home ownership.

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