British plattenbau – going extinct?

Brit plattenbauThis article is part of our weekly series “Plattenbau stories”, introducing the topic of plattenbau districts in Europe and the world. ONE ARCHITECTURE WEEK 2016 will be held in Trakiya, a plattenbau districts in Plovdiv, Bulgaria, from September 30th until October 9th. The main focus of the festival is the topic of“citizen participation in the creation of the urban environment”.

An article in The Guardian, for the full version click here.

One of the serious problems in Britain’s public housing program is the increasing crime rate in the so called “sink estates” – places with poor housing and working conditions. These territories are usually owned by the local government and have a lot of “council houses” –  owned by a local council and rented out to tenants.

According to prime-minister David Cameron, although people have been making comfortable and safe homes out of these council houses the public places and dark alleys in between have become places where criminals thrive. It is assumed that part of the 2011 riots were organised and began namely in sink estates. That is the motivation behind the British government’s plan to invest £140m in demolishing these districts and building new houses.

To some this plan is not executable. To others this is a chance for better living conditions. And some people think that even if the government succeeds in creating a reformed living space by demolishing the old structure the social bonds between citizens in those areas will be broken.

A lot of the to-be-removed council houses are “prefabricated houses”, which is the  British equivalent to plattenbau buildings. They were part of Britain’s housing policy initiated in 1944 by Winston Churchill.

British council houses are mostly given out to tenants. Over the years the government has been trying to encourage the same tenants to buy them, so that the local council would not have to deal with public housing. In comparison more than 90% of the plattenbau flats in Trakiya, Bulgaria are owned by the people, who live in them.