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Key worker housing in tech and science cities

Key worker housing at Eddington, Cambridge (for Cambridge University by Mecanoo Architects - photo by Greg Holmes)

Future Cities Forum's 'Housing and Science Cities'' event this month will include not only architect-led regeneration of hospital and science park sites but also the provision for key worker housing in our technology cities.

Housing remains a key issue in our densely populated science cities of Oxford, Cambridge and London, where there is a drive to attract talent from other countries to live and work in the UK, but also for key workers who are the backbone of the functioning of hospitals and universities.

Last November, Deloitte's Head of Life Sciences, Mike Standing, spoke of the model for expansion of housing in key technology super-cluster cities in the US (such as Boston), where workers can put down roots and stay as their family grows. The growth of the Oxford Milton Keynes Cambridge Arc in the next decade, will mean that housing will be a priority with more university, science and technology employees moving into the area.

Professor Lynette Ryals, Pro-Vice Chancellor of Cranfield University and Chief Executive of MK:U spoke at our October forum on the the need to see innovation in transport and housing design spring up around the new Cranfield and Milton Keynes Council-backed university, where research programmes - particularly in the transport area - will be carried out and tested in Milton Keynes itself.

Last month, we featured architects NBBJ's design for 'drive-through clinics in hospital car parks to help the roll out of the Covid vaccination programme. This month as scientists still need to return in January to a physical place of work, we will be looking at the need for flexible working spaces at our UK innovation hubs and science parks along with how NHS Trusts move out-reach clinics forward for 'health on the high street'.

The survival of the high street will be a hot topic this year and MICA Architects has just gained planning for a 50,000 patient GP surgery as part of its new mixed-use Northgate development that sits next to a busy shopping street in Oxford. The new medical centre for three GP practices uses basement accommodation for consulting and treatment rooms while the first floor is used for support, rest and welfare space. At Oxford City Council's planning committee, GP Matthew Bramall, talked about the council's work on housing, pollution, parks and transport saying that allowing people to ' access decent. compassionate, modern healthcare is surely a goal we all share.'

Caroline Green, who last month was named as the new Chief Executive of Oxford City Council will join our January forum. She has fifteen years experience of senior leadership in local government, serving the Council since 2016 and prior to that leading on housing, planning and environmental work at the Local Government Association. Over the past five years she has had a significant role in managing the Council's engagement with neighbouring authorities and Government that resulted in the Oxfordshire Housing and Growth Deal. This has led to over £500 million of investment in housing and infrastructure countywide.

Oxford like other cities needs to keep developing its science campuses and affordable housing if it is to compete with other international science and tech cities, attracting the best of talent. London is no different and with comparable high prices on housing for sale and rent, the situation needs careful thought and planning.

The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, began asking Londoners back in the summer for their views on proposals to give key workers in the capital, which could include nurses, police officers and teachers, priority access to by or rent homes below market rents.

The proposed new key worker list is part of a wider consultation on the role of intermediate housing in London in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic. Intermediate housing is defined as affordable housing which is targeted at people who are unlikely to access homes at social rent levels, but who are not able to afford to buy or rent a suitable home on the open market. The two types of intermediate homes preferred by the Mayor are London Shared Ownership and London Living Rent.

Joint research between the Greater London Authority and the G15 group of large London housing associations found that delivering 32,500 affordable homes each year - with 70 per cent as social rented homes, 20 per cent as shared ownership and 10 per cent as intermediate rented homes - would require a capital funding settlement of £4.9 billion a year between 2022 and 2032. This is seven-times more than the Government currently grants London.

Sadiq Khan said:

'Londoners know how much we value and depend on the hard work of the key workers who keep London running even during a time of crisis. Housing costs have drive far too many Londoners away from our great city, robbing us of their skills and expertise. Intermediate housing, alongside much-needed homes for social rent, can play a vital role in turning that tide.'

This discussion begins our new series on housing and science cities for 2021 and will involve developers, investors, architects and planners as well as local authorities and hospital trust leaders.


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