Andrew Williamson, Daniel Dacre, Kudakwashe Mushangi

Not In My Back Yard! The Degeneration Of Social Housing

Not In My Back Yard! addresses the issues of contemporary social housing in the UK and its devolution throughout the 20th century. Focussing on the context of Liverpool, new strategies for the design of social housing and development of suburban neighbourhoods were explored, liaising with local authorities and community groups to alleviate existing issues whilst promoting community cohesion.

The aims of this thesis are as follows:

1. Understand how social housing can be designed to be more sociable, and if this can mitigate common issues associated with social tenures.

2. Test whether a bottom-up approach, involving local people with new developments in their neighbourhoods, can reduce the resistance against new proposals.

3. Trial a ‘space-first’ approach, where public spaces are used as drivers to instigate social interaction and engagement between different groups, to improve community cohesion.

The thesis takes a stance on social housing as an amenity for all society, rather than just affordable homes for the vulnerable. As such, we took a hyper-local, bottom-up approach, surveying the wider community of Mossley Hill to understand their lifestyles and concerns with the development of the suburb. Responding to this, we ensured the scheme would offer spaces and amenities to engage with new residents and the existing locals alike, enriching the lives of all.

We explored how public spaces could enhance the sociability of new housing – an aspect which has been previously neglected in social housing schemes in favour of higher densities and improved typologies. Abstracting the principles of Venetian public spaces, we applied a spatial hierarchy across the scheme offering varied levels of social engagement, from ultimate public (civic square / central green) to ultimate private (the individual’s bedroom). The Civic Square provided formal amenities for the wider community, whilst the communal squares fostered small businesses and the residential Courts cultivated neighbourly interaction. These ideas were reflected in a kit-of-parts that was used to help define the activation of each space, but also to generate diversity within them.

Further exploring ‘the spaces in between’, we established thresholds to provide subtle separation between public and residential areas, without resorting to physical barriers. Ancillary spaces – the shared entrances and winter gardens – helped activate the Residential Courts and enhanced permeability between them, creating shared spaces that encouraged casual encounters between on-site residents and could also facilitate larger gatherings.

Acknowledging problems of affordability in Liverpool, our housing typologies targeted excluded demographics and promoted diverse, co-generational neighbourhoods, without sacrificing architectural quality. Additionally, balconies and shared Residential Courts replaced private gardens, therefore increasing density, reducing house prices, and helping propagate a shared sense of neighbourhood ownership.

The final design serves as evidence for Liverpool City Council that generating high-quality public spaces can be the mechanism that harmoniously interweaves new social housing into established suburbs. In doing so, the needs of locals can be addressed, communities can be reunited, and the NIMBY attitude towards social housing can be subdued.