In speaking with several people within industry I have come across the same idea a few time, to the extent that the thought has occupied my mind and turned into this article.
The idea is that experimentation is part of progress, but that we rarely experiment with housing, in particular we rarely experiment with the ‘how’ of it. Historically it has taken calamitous events to make changes, for instance, the timber and plaster construction of Tudor homes was replaced by the brick and stone of Georgian construction only after large fires and events like the Great Gunpowder Disaster of 1597 in Dublin.
So what if we did the following: take a single street in Dublin, Cork and Galway, ideally one which is fairly ruined (there are many) and we said that for this one street that people could do whatever they wanted in terms of building anything they felt was appropriate or what they wanted to do.
That might mean you have a four storey house next to some shipping container apartments or some other weird mix, but we could test for a few things, firstly is to see how quickly it can occur, second is to see if the outcomes are negative or positive.
There are those who feel that property must be constrained and only allowed within a narrow band of acceptable types and uses at all times, just look at the amount of objections that go in for every development and you get the picture quickly.
At the same time it’s not logically reasonable to favour a house over a flesh and blood human so when you take too strong a view of the validity of planning over that of actually housing a person then real people suffer. This mindset needs to change, but we also need to see what would happen if people were left to their own devices, would we get more housing quicker? Would they be larger or smaller houses?
There is scope for new ideas, radically new ideas, but why are we not using them?