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The value of participatory placemaking for Housing Providers

Posted on 10 June 2013

Written by:

Lucia das Neves

By Maja Luna Jorgensen, Strategic Projects Manager & Lucia das Neves, Marketing and Events Manager, The Glass-House with John Coburn, Network Manager, HACT

At a time when housing providers are under enormous pressure and grappling with welfare reform, new localism and a debilitating recession, how can they continue to deliver successful, sustainable and vibrant places for and with local people?

At our recent session on ‘The Value of Participatory Placemaking for Housing Providers’, delivered jointly by The Glass-House and HACT, we explored the fact that whilst participatory placemaking may not feel quite possible or relevant for many housing providers in the current climate, it may hold some of the solutions to the very real challenges they face.

Participants at the session collaboratively exploring the design of a neighbourhood

Participants reflected on the at times ‘narrow’ vision of their peers – those charged with development and physical regeneration who direct the ‘core’ of the business – in considering they were only in the business of ‘housing’. Nevertheless those in the room were clear: ‘we’re talking about places, not just housing’.

We know that the impact of good or bad places on viability, on value, on lives is profound. If building homes and managing them is about better lives and outcomes – then it is about great placemaking.

But with short planning and budgeting cycles, it isn’t easy for management to allow time for good process. Our participants were clear – they need to see the value of participation and to understand it as a resource rather than something that will hold up the process further. We know that a participatory process that builds trust and capacity can support the delivery of value for money and generate social and economic value – many Glass-House beneficiaries and clients can attest to that.

A neighbourhood design by one of the session groups

We believe that great placemaking – investing in and creating a place rather than a collection of buildings and services – makes business sense. An integrated, well-designed place where people interact and communicate enables commercial interaction and develops resource in people and businesses.

Engagement undertaken with integrity, that builds trust and capacity can lead to opportunities for innovation and creativity. We can release skills and knowledge that so often are ignored or stifled. And how can we do it? Participants told us that we need champions to drive change and need to embed good participatory processes across the whole of organisations, to deliver success.

As housing providers work in greater partnership with local communities, we will see how the opportunities for collaboration and partnership can help shape great places that make for better lives.

For more on how The Glass-House works with Housing Providers get in touch.