Books Every Fresher Should Read
Arts
18 views
18 views

Books Every Fresher Should Read

Anonymous - September 19, 2018
France in Fine Fettle
Sports
38 views
38 views

France in Fine Fettle

Anonymous - September 17, 2018
Dive into Brightonian Culture
Arts
40 views
40 views

Dive into Brightonian Culture

Anonymous - September 17, 2018
Oh, baby, baby, did you see Britney at Pride?
Arts
69 views
69 views

Oh, baby, baby, did you see Britney at Pride?

Anastasia Konstantinidou - September 15, 2018
446 Views
2 Comments

‘Green and Pleasant Land?’ The housing crisis and a historical solution

“What sordid, and even terrible, details [modern civilization] surrounds the life of the poor, what a mechanical and empty life she forces on the rich; and how rare a holiday it is for any of us to feel ourselves a part of Nature”

-William Morris

It’s mid-March; this is a student paper. So whether it’s “I hate my flatmates and can’t wait to move out” or “we really should have started looking 3 months ago”, housing is probably never far from the mind. But unlike your eighth tour round a “cosy” 4-bedroom in Elm Grove, our national housing situation need not be bleak and pedestrian.

“A social experiment on a par with the Welfare State.” So said broadcaster Jonathan Meades on the subject of Garden City projects of the early Twentieth Century – aimed at delivering a high quality of life through housing and community development to all people. That vision was taken on by the 1945 Labour government, seeking to build a “New Jerusalem” through its endeavour that communities need not be segregated street-by-street by house prices and private wealth.

But while aspects of the welfare state from the Health Service to national insurance are now success-stories turned everyday normalities, housing remains the unfinished revolution.

This point hardly needs making: how many students reading this believe they’ll ever own their own home?

For our generation, housing has slipped far from the Thatcherite dream of a proud symbol of personal success, and become all too often “that damp and faintly depressing place for which I pay far too much for the privilege of having a roof over my head”. That’s perhaps nothing new for students, but it’s the fact that we don’t seem to have much hope nor prospect of ever bettering it that rankles.

For inspiration, we need look no further than Basil Spence’s designs for our own campus

But in this as so many areas, our level of political discourse is woefully inadequate. Everyone seems to agree that house prices are too high, and that we need to build more to lower prices and satisfy demand. Yet whenever house-building programmes are mentioned, immediately several predictable criticisms arrive:

“Britain’s full! We’re a small island”; “You wouldn’t build on Green Belt, would you?”

So we tend to muddle through, hoping private development satisfies just enough people just enough that we can kick the issue into the long grass for another few years.

The government last month published its Housing white paper – reassuringly titled Fixing Our Broken Housing Market. In it is 106 pages-worth of fairly explicit repudiation of the Coalition’s focus on ownership and treatment of homes as private assets – but, crucially, continuing in the strategy of reductions in planning and regulation. Alternatively titled, “politicians are happy for young people to be consigned to four decades of near-adolescent lifestyle as long as they’re building up a financial asset that makes them less likely to call on the state for support during their pensioner years”, in the words of Hannah Fearn in The Independent.

My old economics teacher put the blame for this squarely at the foot of Channel 4’s Location, Location, Location, in which presenter Kirstie Allsop charmingly and constantly refers to houses as “good assets”. “They’re not assets, Kirstie, they’re homes!”

Thankfully, though, far from the foggy depression of politics, there is real inspiration to be found.

And we need not look far to find it. When Basil Spence designed the beginnings of Sussex campus, he had an acute awareness that he was responsible not just for a cluster of buildings, but shaping a community for years to come.

“The picture I had in mind in my mind’s eye was not an aggressive one of buildings thrusting themselves on the unsuspecting visitor but of brick enlivened by white paint on window frames peeping through trees with a broad rhythm of arched frames, harmonising, I hoped, with the rounded forms of the hills and trees. But the trees would dominate – even in winter without their leaves.” He used in his design materials sympathetic to the location: “a Sussex brick, concrete, knapped flint, copper, timber and white paint.”

Courtesy of Spence’s vision, 2000 words on international trade regulation can be done in slightly less depressing areas of space.

I mention this for 2 reasons (3 if you count bragging about how pretty our campus is):

First, the idea that development and green space are two entirely separate realms of human need is surely a depressing one we’d rather avoid. It cannot be the case that we’re content to live in concrete jungles for 95% of our time at the payoff that we can visit the countryside once in awhile, something that is often only accessible to people with a car and plenty of leisure time.

Introducing the 1947 Town and Country Planning Act, the minister of state described the dual function of land: to be used to satisfy human needs, and for its own natural beauty. Spence’s approach reminds us that it is possible to integrate the two – by building into the countryside, not on it.

“There are in reality not only, as is so constantly assumed, two alternatives—town life and country life—but a third alternative, in which all the advantages of the most energetic and active town life, with all the beauty and delight of the country”

Second, that building individual development by individual development at the whim of private companies, simply hoping that relaxing planning regulation and lowering production costs will “fix our broken housing market” is neither plausible nor desirable. “Planning” is now a taboo word in politics, implausibly synonymous with Soviet Communism and ‘70s-style stagflation. That should be the first change in our attitudes: communities must be able to take responsibility for planning their own social housing in ways that optimise affordability and quality of life.

Building in the early post-war period was consciously aware that creating new houses was not just an itemized programme of individual house units, but designing communities in which people will live for years to come, building New Towns and planning initiatives to that end.

That effort was developing on an earlier idea, the Garden City.

Ebenezer Howard, founding father of Letchworth, the first Garden City, argued that the modern consensus (then as now, I would suggest) made it “quite impossible for working people to live in the country, and yet be engaged in pursuits other than agricultural, as though crowded unhealthy cities were the last word of economic science…There are in reality not only, as is so constantly assumed, two alternatives—town life and country life—but a third alternative, in which all the advantages of the most energetic and active town life, with all the beauty and delight of the country, may be secured in perfect combination”.

The great irony here is that many of the utopian New Towns are now themselves depressing hunks of concrete lacking the sense of community they were designed for, while Garden Cities have become too often seas of Tory-blue suburban bliss with house prices even Sajid Javid can’t spin as “affordable”.

The ideal, then, of building affordable, good quality housing available to everyone regardless of income – and in so doing to unite our communities beyond background-driven segregation, remains elusive.

But that is a failure not of our imagination in the past, but our commitment to that kind of vision in the present. In the face of population worries and price rises, it is more important than ever to reframe the way we think about planning and national development – but in so doing we ought not to forget that affordability and quality should never be a binary choice.

We should all be able to take pride in our environments, as embodiments of our communities. In this individualised and increasingly lonely society, it is more important than ever to re-learn Morris’s lesson that “ the true secret of happiness lies in the taking a genuine interest in all the details of daily life”.

Get the best viral stories straight into your inbox!

Don't worry, we don't spam
Books Every Fresher Should Read
Arts
18 views
18 views

Books Every Fresher Should Read

Anonymous - September 19, 2018
France in Fine Fettle
Sports
38 views
38 views

France in Fine Fettle

Anonymous - September 17, 2018
Dive into Brightonian Culture
Arts
40 views
40 views

Dive into Brightonian Culture

Anonymous - September 17, 2018
Oh, baby, baby, did you see Britney at Pride?
Arts
69 views
69 views

Oh, baby, baby, did you see Britney at Pride?

Anastasia Konstantinidou - September 15, 2018

2 Comments

  1. This is a really good article, connecting lots of dots and clearly expressed, well written and thoughtful ….. I´ve shared it on facebook because I think it will interest people even outside Sussex…. thank you for this, and well done

    Reply
  2. Next day, and already four people have picked up the story from my fb wall…. sign of good journalism!

    Reply

Leave a Reply to Jane Marshall Cancel reply

Join the Badger Team

Apply today!

Latest Posts

Books Every Fresher Should Read
Arts
18 views
Arts
18 views

Books Every Fresher Should Read

Anonymous - September 19, 2018

Starting university comes with both exciting but potentially daunting changes, with both moving away from home and studying at degree level posing to be two new challenges.…

INCREDIBLES 2: The Sequel with a Feminist Twist
Film & Theatre
30 views
Film & Theatre
30 views

INCREDIBLES 2: The Sequel with a Feminist Twist

Anonymous - September 18, 2018

One key film in the development of anyone who grew up in the early 2000s was The Incredibles (2004). It’s comedy, vibrancy, and general sense of fun…

France in Fine Fettle
Sports
38 views
Sports
38 views

France in Fine Fettle

Anonymous - September 17, 2018

Prior to the start of the quadrennial tournament this summer, football fans across the world grew sceptical over Russia’s credentials and ability to host the most prestigious…

Dive into Brightonian Culture
Arts
40 views
Arts
40 views

Dive into Brightonian Culture

Anonymous - September 17, 2018

Boredom is impossible when you throw yourself into everything this weird and wonderful city has to offer. The specific and unique cultural wonders of Brighton are indeed…

Oh, baby, baby, did you see Britney at Pride?
Arts
69 views
Arts
69 views

Oh, baby, baby, did you see Britney at Pride?

Anastasia Konstantinidou - September 15, 2018

During this year’s Pride Festival, Brighton had the honour of welcoming international pop star and voice of the early 2000s, Britney Spears, to the main stage. Undoubtedly,…

Union obliterates the debate – unwritten requirement used to shut down free speech debate
Campus News
1134 views1
Campus News
1134 views1

Union obliterates the debate – unwritten requirement used to shut down free speech debate

Jordan Wright - April 27, 2018

Student society Liberate the Debate’s most recent event was cancelled over a lack of compliance with the Students' Union's (USSU) requirement for a neutral chair - a…

Sussex Lecturer Accused of Making Transphobic Comments Ahead of Brighton Trans Pride 2018
News
71 views1
News
71 views1

Sussex Lecturer Accused of Making Transphobic Comments Ahead of Brighton Trans Pride 2018

Jessica Hubbard - September 15, 2018

Kathleen Stock, a philosophy Lecturer at Sussex, was accused of making transphobic comments in July 2018. This followed various interviews and blog posts by Stock. Stock told…

Welcome 2018 Freshers!
Campus News
76 views
Campus News
76 views

Welcome 2018 Freshers!

Billie-Jean Johnson - September 15, 2018

Ah, Freshers. You’ve no idea the amazing year you have ahead of you! As you read this now, you’ve probably met your flatmates and maybe even met…

A conversation with Kathleen Stock on Transgender Identity
Opinion
70 views
Opinion
70 views

A conversation with Kathleen Stock on Transgender Identity

Jessica Hubbard - September 15, 2018

Kathleen Stock, a philosophy lecturer at Sussex University, met with controversy after criticising the government’s reform of the Gender Recognition Act (2004). The amendment would ‘de-medicalise’ the…

Verve Couture – Musicality, kitsch & ignition: the beginning of a series
Arts
393 views
Arts
393 views

Verve Couture – Musicality, kitsch & ignition: the beginning of a series

Ricardo Reverón Blanco - June 17, 2018

Pictured: Zac Black At Proud Cabaret audiences were spellbound as if at night at the circus, yet this was not like Angela Carter’s magical realist novel; Verve…

Fleabag on stage at The Old Market – review
Arts
392 views
Arts
392 views

Fleabag on stage at The Old Market – review

Florence Dutton - June 11, 2018

[caption id="attachment_35513" align="alignnone" width="2400"] Fleabag at Soho Theatre[/caption] Last Monday at 8pm at Brighton’s The Old Market, I sat myself down in my theatre seat eagerly awaiting…

Fleabag preview
Arts
370 views
Arts
370 views

Fleabag preview

Florence Dutton - June 2, 2018

[caption id="attachment_35513" align="alignnone" width="2400"] Fleabag at Soho Theatre[/caption] Following the mass success of the Bafta award-winning BBC Series, DryWrite and Soho Theatre are about to hit the…

Brighton Festival: Ezra Furman at the Dome
Arts
431 views
Arts
431 views

Brighton Festival: Ezra Furman at the Dome

Georgia Grace - June 1, 2018

Having completed my final semester of university with modules on punk history and queer arts, it was fitting that I rounded off my end-of-assessment celebrations by attending…

Arts
447 views

The Tempest review

Georgia Grace - May 30, 2018

As the sun begins to set over Hove Green, tinnies of Red Stripe are cracked open, tartan blankets are strewn, and families tuck into their picnic hampers.…

A Glass Half Empty review
Arts
388 views
Arts
388 views

A Glass Half Empty review

Georgia Grace - May 27, 2018

For those of us coming to the end of another year of university study, the prospect of careers, marriages and babies may seem a long way off.…

DollyWould at The Old Market review
Arts
362 views
Arts
362 views

DollyWould at The Old Market review

Alex Hutson - May 27, 2018

Sh!t Theatre’s DollyWould is a hilarious, thoughtful and experimental performance piece. The award winning show has the Sh!t Theatre duo integrating comedy, storytelling, personal experience and music.…

UCU Launch Petition to End the ‘Hostile Environment’ at Sussex
Campus News
550 views
Campus News
550 views

UCU Launch Petition to End the ‘Hostile Environment’ at Sussex

Billie-Jean Johnson - May 26, 2018

The Sussex branch of the University and College Union (UCU) has launched a petition calling for Vice-Chancellor Adam Tickell to end the 'hostile environment' at Sussex. The…

Arts
313 views

Shakespeare in the sun – The Tempest preview

Georgia Grace - May 24, 2018

In a world of dystopian King Lears and female Hamlets, Shakespeare’s classics are constantly being reimagined for the modern day. There’s something oddly refreshing then about the…

Review: Nick Cave Double Bill at The Old Market (TOM’s Film Club)
Arts
913 views
Arts
913 views

Review: Nick Cave Double Bill at The Old Market (TOM’s Film Club)

Sophie Coppenhall - May 23, 2018

What a phenomenal contrast these two films present when watched side-by-side. In essence, together they are capable of tracing inner and outer metamorphoses of their subjects. The…

Dollywould at The Old Market preview
Arts
373 views
Arts
373 views

Dollywould at The Old Market preview

Alex Hutson - May 22, 2018

From the 22nd May - 25th May 2018 DollyWould will be showing at The Old Market. An exciting new show, presented by Sh!t Theatre, who won the…

Exhibition: Io-sono Fedilouu
Artist Focus
454 views
Artist Focus
454 views

Exhibition: Io-sono Fedilouu

Ricardo Reverón Blanco - May 16, 2018

Last week artist Fedilou made her debut exhibition in the downstairs space of Morelli Zorelli, a quaint vegan Italian restaurant in Hove, featuring a collection of intimate…