Co-Design – What Is It And Why Does It Help Build More Deeply Affordable Homes?

street view of attached red brick houses
photo by Google and the Google logo are registered trademarks of Google LLC, used with permission.
Bristol Council in England is working to add social rent homes in this neighbourhood without tearing down what's already here.

Local Councils and Housing Associations are taking the heat in England these days for failing to listen to the concerns of their residents. Some housing managers aren’t doing a very good job of providing adequate housing. The national government has reacted with a White Paper, which is slowly being translated from a policy prescription to regulations that head off the worst of the bad conditions1. And recently, a coroner found that the death of a two year old was directly tied to the mould in the social rent home where he lived with his family2.

People who oppose social rent housing may (and probably do) see this as a reason to do away with the housing altogether. Against that, thousands of households are waiting for social rent homes, which is one measure of the need for truly affordable housing.

Meanwhile, the managers charged with repairing, maintaining and upgrading aging social rent housing stock face rising repair costs and shrinking budgets. Local councils and housing associations are learning that they aren’t the darlings of sitting tenants, who are wary of any plans to redevelop or refurbish their homes.

And rather than pretending there isn’t a problem and/or hoping it will all go away, there are local leaders who are taking on the challenge and trying to provide adequate housing for their tenants and the people who are on their waiting lists.

The article linked to this post begins with a story about social rent housing in Bristol, where there are thousands of people on a waiting list and an aging housing stock that needs to be repaired and upgraded. The article discusses an innovation that Bristol council is testing on a small scale on one of its social rent housing estates, where a tenant on the waiting list co-designed the new home she moved into.

Bristol Council has been criticized for not listening to tenants’ concerns. Co-design seems like a move that could set landlord tenant relations on a more positive footing. To that end, the article points to other experiences of co-design with social rent housing, to help prepare the Council for what’s ahead.

Read more in The Bristol Cable: With Co-Design, Residents “Do Housing On Their Own Terms”


  1. Try: A UK ‘Levelling Up’ White Paper – Prospects For Social Rent Housing
  2. Try: Moulds Don’t Bother Many But For Some In Social Housing They Are Deadly