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15 Creative New Designs For Solving The Urban Housing Crisis

From floating houses to super-skinny ones, here’s how cities of the future can reimagine how they build to accommodate growing populations.

Like San Francisco or Tokyo, London is a terrible place to try to find a place to live. Thanks to a lack of supply, a two-bed flat in Central London sells for an average of nearly $2 million. But despite the fact that London has faced a housing crisis for more than two decades–and the problem is getting worse–the way new housing is built hasn’t changed much.

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Living Arteries, Benjamin Marks

A competition from New London Architecture asked architects to rethink housing in the city. The short list of 100 ideas, up in a new exhibition in October, includes narrow houses that squeeze into tiny gaps on streets, homes built over rail lines and parking lots, floating homes for canals, and a redesign of the city’s suburban fringes.

The ideas could be useful in any city struggling to accommodate everyone who wants to live there, and offer ways to possibly turn around negative trends. In London, one study suggests that rents will continue to go up over the next few decades at more than twice the rate of incomes, so the majority of London renters will end up living in poverty.

Y:CUBE, Rogers Stirk Harbour

“London’s population is growing fast, and there has been a lack of investment in housing for many years,” says Peter Murray, chairman of New London Architecture. “The shortage this has created means that house prices are high and, in central London, out of reach of younger people and poorer families. We should be building 60,000 homes a year, but are only able to deliver half that number.”

The contest, arranged with the city government, may lead to some new construction. Ten winning ideas will be chosen in October. “Each of the winners will have the chance of working with the housing team in City Hall to test the feasibility of their ideas, and, if they work, to build them,” Murray says.

Flip through 15 of the shortlisted ideas in the slideshow above.

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About the author

Adele Peters is a staff writer at Fast Company who focuses on solutions to some of the world's largest problems, from climate change to homelessness. Previously, she worked with GOOD, BioLite, and the Sustainable Products and Solutions program at UC Berkeley.

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