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Anne Power: “Placemaking interventions have reinforced inequality”

We need a more blended approach to creating mixed communities, says Anne Power, Head of LSE Housing and Communities

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Anne Power at the Festival of Place 2019
Anne Power at the Festival of Place 2019

“Forcing developers to build to the very highest luxury standard in order to fund replacement social housing... you’re not creating a mixed community, you’re not creating a place, you’re not creating integration, no matter how pretty it looks,” Anne Power, head of LSE Housing and Communities, tells the audience at the Festival of Place.

 

“It won’t work: it can’t work because there’s no blending between what that very high income – and often absent – group requires and what the low-income community needs.”

 

In her address, now available on The Developer podcast, Power draws from her professional experience working in government policy, from 10 years during Margaret Thatcher’s tenure to working under New Labour, to point out policy failings and define: “Why is it so difficult to get this placemaking to work?”

 

Power has been involved in tackling housing and urban problems since 1965, including working for Martin Luther King’s End Slums campaign in Chicago in 1966.

 

“Placemaking isn’t a science, it isn’t about architecture, it isn’t about anything but people and their human instinct to group together,” Power says. “We’re social animals, we are driven to group together, and in grouping together we form in-groups and out-groups.”

 

“We have always tended to separate by origin, by culture and by family connections,” Power says.

 

Power claims many of the current failures in housing were well-intentioned, from quotas for the private provision of social housing to the Right to Buy. However they have all contributed to the growing wealth gap because all placemaking costs money.

 

“We invented an exclusion system, even with council housing.”

 

Instead, Power advocates for the adoption of an organic and blended approach to the creation of places. Organic, because it will be less costly and disruptive to low-income communities, and blended in order to promote equality between tenures.

 

Power says: “We need to take places as they are and work out how we can enhance them.”

 

With climate change as a major given, Power names taming traffic, treating tenures equally, increased use of infill and investment in public and shared spaces as also essential to making places.

 

Of the current prime minister, Power says, “We know that Boris Johnson is lazy,” but that she hopes he’ll give her a call, because she can avoid him making some mistakes.

 

Power calls for more control of the private rental sector, but not too much, as it would be problematic to see it decline: “I’d look carefully at the law of unintended consequences.”

 

Power would also protect homelessness and the right to housing, and give tenants a greater voice.

 

Primarily, however, Power says we need to pay more taxes in order to equalise: “If we want collective provision, we have to pay for it, through council tax and space tax.”

 

“We need moderate to high density for places to work. We need good public transport. We need people-friendly open spaces. We need blended integration, trying to link the extreme wealthy with the poorest people.”

 

Next year’s Festival of Place is happening on 7 July 2020 – go to www.festivalofplace.co.uk for updates on tickets and speakers.

 

Listen to the full speech in the podcast below by clicking on the link and sign up to The Developer Weekly to be updated when new episodes go online.

 

 

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