As part of NLA’s competition ‘New Ideas for Housing London’ Useful Studio put forward the idea for the Neighbourhood Nesting Trust (NNT), a philanthropic organisation that provides a network of Neighbourhood Nests, a new typology designed to offer affordable, secure rental accommodation for working Londoners on low-average incomes, with the added opportunity for an improved quality of life and stronger communities.
NNT recognises that many working Londoners live in small homes that provide the basic spaces we need; spaces to sleep, spaces to eat, spaces to wash. Many have aspirations for the missing spaces that can enrich our lives: spaces to play, spaces for hobbies, spaces to create, spaces to gather, spaces to think.
NNT advocates that good quality housing accommodates a range spaces to enable diversity of occupation and interaction, vital in contributing to a rich, productive and happy life. Good quality housing should be available in central London and within reach of low-average earners.
A new typology is proposed to achieve the aims of NNT: the Neighbourhood Nest is based on the principle of keeping individual unit sizes containing the space we ‘need’ as compact as possible, and providing the spaces we ‘want’ as shared facilities. By sharing the spaces we ‘want’ a greater variety of spaces can be provided more efficiently and affordably than if additional space were located in each individual dwelling.
In order to deliver the shared spaces proposed without increasing the overall area and subsequent cost of a development the following strategies are proposed:
- Optimised unit layouts to enable a 10% reduction of the LHDG minimum area, achieved by omitting segregated circulation spaces. Space is redistributed from individual units and combined to provide shared internal spaces. Further efficiencies can be achieved if it is accepted that the area allowances associated with Lifetime Homes may not be appropriate to all units.
- Greater use is made of communal circulation areas and where possible corridors are combined with shared spaces for increased efficiency. Shared circulation becomes a foyer within the Neighbourhood Nest where residents are invited to pause over a morning greeting or an afternoon natter.
- Private external amenity areas (based on LHDG minimums) are relocated and combined to provide generous, useable and easily accessible outdoor spaces on each floor.
Shared spaces might vary from Nest to Nest according to the needs of residents as determined through collaboration. Young families may request more shared play and childcare spaces, while elderly residents may benefit from spaces for memory clinics or knitting club. There should always be a space large enough to host NNT events for all residents.
Neighbourhood Nests are proposed in response to several well documented issues facing London Housing – the growing rental sector, divergent user needs, finance etc. But NNT is primarily concerned with the too often neglected problem of quality and how to provide ‘good’ housing that will enable more Londoners the possibility of a vibrant, fulfilling and high-quality life in the centre of our city.