Column: Quantity and quality are equally vital

Houses being built in Derbyshire as house building has got off to its best start to the year since 2007, with most of the UK seeing strong growth, an industry body has reported.
Houses being built in Derbyshire as house building has got off to its best start to the year since 2007, with most of the UK seeing strong growth, an industry body has reported.

We need more new homes. Everyone knows this. But too often the conversation stops there. The question of ‘what new homes do we want?’ doesn’t get asked. We want to shift the debate from ‘we need more homes’ to ‘we need more and better homes’.

Our exhibition ‘New Urban Housing Ideas for Sheffield’, which is on display at the railway station, showcases 10 examples of urban housing from across the UK and Europe.

They include a beautiful social housing block in Dublin, London’s first co-housing project, and the reimagining of a Sheffield terraced house. We chose them because they show how new homes can be environmentally sustainable, affordable, and designed to the highest standard.

But most importantly they provide great places to live. They show how new urban housing can create new urban communities.

We’ve focused on urban housing because Sheffield has lots of sites, big and small, empty and in use, where we could imagine housing like these 10 examples being developed. New estates of semi-detached houses on green fields aren’t the only types of homes that can be built.

Sheffield has a proud tradition of innovative housing and we want to be proud about new homes in our city again. Across Sheffield construction is taking place and cranes are back on the skyline – but let’s not just keep on building more of the same.  

The challenges are huge. Britain needs to be building at least 300,000 new homes a year to fix our housing crisis, and the council aims to build 43,000 new homes in Sheffield over the next 20 years.

But let’s do this by increasing the quantity of new homes and the quality. So the exhibition is our challenge to the council, to the architects, planners and investors, and to all of us. Let’s be more demanding, more ambitious. Let’s learn from the best and then be better.

The housing crisis can be solved. Let’s build more homes but let’s also put Sheffield back at the forefront of housing design.

n The Sheffield Housing Expo exhibition will be on display at the station until Saturday. Visit Sheffield Civic Trust via email.