Re-start

/ Chris Simmonds / Places to live

The 2008 financial shock in one go, top sliced a whole sector of work across our industry. Housing which had always been an investment vehicle, had over stretched itself across the board to the point when the elastic was cut, a whole industry seemed to be wiped out in the rebound. Almost overnight it seemed we had rewound thirty years to a position reminiscent of the mid 1980s where, certainly in our inner cities, only public sector work offered solutions to the housing pressures that existed and that dependant on the availability of funding.

Then innovative public grant initiatives, usually place specific - nurtured, cajoled and lubricated, first slowly, then more quickly, the idea of private investment in the inner cities creating new housing and residential settings. Initially modest and enjoyably innovative the tangible results have gone down in urban folklore such as in the Glasgow Merchant City, Temple Bar Dublin and the Ropeworks of Liverpool.

These very carefully incubated successes were fuel to quicker tasks and goals and we all know how that became ramped up in a feeding frenzy of greed lubricated by easy money. How the originators of the policies that enabled these early urban transformations must have squirmed at the footloose exploitation of their hard earned experience.

That experience was wiped out in 2008 leaving many victims. We were affected in the same way - overnight our housing world was turned upside down. And so began the long walk back.

Five years on we find the public sector heroically trying to initiate activity, establish partnerships, find ways to create a context where private funding might play a future role, if viable lending becomes available. Having been there before it will be a long road to rebuild that confidence on sensible foundations. But that is road we are on.

So we have had plenty of time to think, how at Laurieston for New Gorbals Housing Association a context can be created for a significant part of the city within which the private sector can take confidence and start building again.

In our work with Victorian listed buildings at Barnton for McCarthy & Stone and in Dundee at Parkview School for Whiteburn Developments re-engaging with the potential of re-use of significant existing buildings in creative ways to create places to live.

And in rural settings too, investigating how incremental, unit by unit projects could initiate cohesive settings for Bute Estates and on Loch Lomond for Luss Estates.

It will be a long road but one advantage we have is we have seen it before. We know where we want to go, we know now the long term pitfalls, we have started on the path.