Published  05/01/2009

Real affordable housing, sixty years on

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Scant homage has been played – by architects and developers – to the so-called affordable housing, of the post-war prefab estates. One of these is poised today to get Grade II Listing. These single storey units were only intended to provide a ten- year temporary solution to the housing problem that existed post-war. Residents of these diminutive units each with front and back gardens have fought for years to fend off the bulldozers, directed there by the local authority on account of the too -low density of the overall estate. In Catford, East London, this so-called Excalibur estate was erected by German Prisoners of War, most of whom would be amazed how their legacy has survived, and with fulfilled and happy communities long since. Even labour Minister Aneurin Bevan referred to the houses as Rabbit Hutches. But they provided those who were re-housed so urgently post-war, with what they actually aspired to, adequate rooms and adequate front and back garden space. Insulation of roofs and walls was inadequate, but this is solvable. A contemporary version may indeed be on the drawing board, given today’s acute housing shortage. The Prefab Version 2 could be a design masterpiece, or several of them by different and competing architects. Furthermore, in a low-rise context such as this, the opportunities for the environment would be positive indeed.

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