Re-forming multi-storey housing : the regeneration of urban housing estates in Britain
Estates of multi-storey housing present some of the most intractable problems for urban policy. Socially, many are characterised by a complex of deprivation. Physically, they often suffer from serious technical problems and poor environmental quality. This study traces the development of multi-storey housing from its early beginnings in the 19th century to the period from the mid-1950s to the early 1970s when most of the contemporary legacy of estates was built. In this period, it is suggested, the concentration on 'low cost' led to the poor design of access systems, the use of untried mass-production techniques and the virtual elimination of social facilities. All these economies sowed the seeds of the social rejection and degeneration that was to follow. The central question is whether such estates can be successfully modernised -or whether the only solution is to demolish them. In seeking an answer the various responses of social landlords are analysed. It emerges that the older, smaller estates can be effectively adapted to provide good housing. The large scale, more recent estates, however, have proved more resistant to improvement. Despite the fact that government has increasingly targeted the problem estates of the 1960s and 70s, many improvement schemes have met with limited success. Drawing on an analysis of past practice, a 'model of regeneration' is defined. This concentrates on the need for tenant participation; on the importance of design solutions which are both technically and socially appropriate; and on management which is sensitive to local needs. This model was tested through case studies on recent improvement schemes. From the results, conclusions are drawn about the value of the model and the prospects for regenerating the various types of multi-storey housing Finally, a strategic approach is defined which can re-form the estates and re-integrate them into the mainstream urban environment.