Impact of housing design and placemaking on social value and wellbeing in the pandemic

This report, written by Professor Flora Samuel in October 2020, presents initial findings from a project into ‘Housing Policies and the COVID 19 Epidemic’. Based on 17 interviews with stakeholders, drawn largely from government, local government and housing provider backgrounds, it uncovers key changes seen in people’s experience of the home during the first UK lockdown, as well as exploring key lessons about how places can ‘build back better’, with a focus on housing, planning, and wellbeing.

Date added 10 November 2020
Last updated 10 November 2020

This report by Professor Flora Samuel presents initial findings from a UK Collaborative Centre for Housing Evidence project into 'Housing Policies and the COVID 19 Epidemic’. As the author stresses, whilst bringing many challenges, “the pandemic offers an opportunity to build back better for future resilience... Resilience starts with the home... flexible space is needed in all homes as they increasingly become places of work. All homes should have access to balconies, daylight and broadband” (p. 4). Based on 17 interviews conducted June – September 2020 with stakeholders drawn largely from government, local government and housing provider backgrounds, the first half of the report outlines key changes seen in people’s experience of the home, local community, and local authority responses to the crisis, during the first UK lockdown, including:

  • More working from home.
  • Agile responses from local authorities.
  • Challenges around how best to communicate with communities, given issues around digital inequalities.
  • Local authorities playing a central role in supporting vulnerable communities.
  • New vulnerable groups identified (e.g. relating to size of home, high rise housing, access to outdoor space etc.)
  • The need to re-design public spaces to accommodate social distancing requirements.
  • Some delays to planning decisions and housing provision.

The second half of the report concentrates on the lessons learnt from the first lockdown, in terms of how to create better homes and places for people to live in, and build more resilience into local communities, as summarised below:

  • There should be a continued focus on addressing the climate change emergency.
  • The idea of the home as a foundation for resilience and wellbeing is important.
  • The significance of ensuring more people have access to green and outdoor spaces has been further revealed.
  • There is a need for health, built environment, housing, and transport professionals to collaborate further to ensure healthy communities.
  • There needs to be more of a focus on local economies, with the notion of walkable neighbourhoods increasingly important.