• Books/Reports

What is the future of high-rise housing? Examining the long-term social and financial impacts of residential towers

This new publication, 'What is the future of high-rise housing? Examining the long-term social and financial impacts of residential towers', says that more information should be made available to buyers of high-rise housing about the likely costs of managing and maintaining their homes over their lifetimes and that high-rise housing for households on moderate incomes can be highly problematic because of increasing maintenance costs over time to keep the services and fabric in good repair. Government and industry need to do much more to ensure that high-rise housing provides popular, sustainable and affordable homes and neighbourhoods.

'What is the future of high-rise housing?' argues that it is important that housing is built to last and can be modified to meet changing needs over time. Currently, leaseholders are buying 250-year and 999-year leases without any clear understanding of the longevity of the buildings.

The report makes a series of recommendations for government, firstly to ensure leaseholders’ rights and responsibilities are protected and understood; secondly, that the high-rise towers are built as good quality housing for the long term; and thirdly, that high-density living comes with adequate social infrastructure, including public open space. It includes new research carried out by Kath Scanlon on the experience of those living in high-density housing, and analysis showing that those living in the poorest neighbourhoods have the worst access to open space.

Specific recommendations include:

  • Government should provide and regularly update best practice guidance for setting service charges and contributions to sinking funds, and use existing powers to improve the provision by landlords of service charge information to leaseholders.
  • Developers should be required to provide a fully costed building component repair and replacement programme for the projected life of the building.
  • Planning authorities should have clear policies on open space provision around new high-rise developments including the amount of additional public and shared open space per household to be provided in the area where the development is proposed.
  • Building Regulations and planning policies should be aligned to have a greater focus on lifetime utility (maintenance/ repair/ replacement costs over their lifetime) as well as safety and performance at the point of completion.

We were pleased to contribute to this research alongside June Barnes, former CEO of East Thames Housing Association; Andrew Beharrell, senior advisor and former senior partner at Pollard Thomas Edwards; the former Peabody development director Dickon Robinson; LSE distinguished policy fellow, Kath Scanlon; and Allies and Morrison. We believe more research is needed to better understand the experiences of those living in high-rise homes and the impact the new towers are having on local amenities, and to ensure they are being built for the long term.