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We need places shaped by local interests to end the housing crisis

Our housing crisis stems from a larger crisis in how we conceive of place and of landscape. Landscapes are the environments we shape and which, in turn, shape us. However, the control of our everyday landscapes – our cities and our countryside – have been turned over to be designed by placeless multinationals, giant developers, and (occasionally) architectural superstars whose work is global and could be anywhere. Then those horsemen of the apocalypse the FIRE sector (Finance, Insurance, and Real Estate) treat land and housing as financial instruments for speculation rather than as places that provide for human flourishing.

We need places, and thus housing, that are on the whole designed, funded, and developed locally so that cities are made in their own idiom and at a scale that suits them. The same is true of the countryside, where people need permanent housing – rather than weekend cottages – and good work so that they can live well and serve as stewards of the land.

The general panic resulting from austerity politics has fuelled a smug, elite project of asset-stripping the public good and the common wealth, including neighbourhoods and housing. We need its alternative: a prosperity politics that focuses on the best things possible for all people and the places in which they live. Quality housing, quality places, and meaningful work that provides demonstrably good things are essential to good quality of life and well-being. Indeed, they are essential to our planetary future.

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Written by Tim Waterman | Posted on 23rd March 2015

Tim Waterman is a landscape architect, urbanist, writer, and critic. He is honorary editor of Landscape: the journal of the Landscape Institute and Research Associate for Landscape and Commons at the arts organisation Furtherfield. His book Fundamentals of Landscape Architecture is now out in its second edition from Bloomsbury.