New York Has a Public Housing Problem. Does London Have an Answer?

Hoxton Press is an all-market-rate development. The old Colville consisted of some 430 subsidized apartments in aging, inward-turning housing blocks on narrow streets. All of those old buildings are now coming down. Those 430-odd apartments are being replaced by 925 new apartments, in phases, in the coming years. The new apartments built so far occupy a mid-rise complex of mixed-income, red-brick buildings around a network of playful, richly detailed open spaces. Hoxton Press, which acts as a signpost and gateway to the new Colville Estate, is the only all-market-rate part of the project.

All in all, the Colville makeover produces more subsidized units than before, including apartments for middle-income tenants. Roughly half the estate will become market-rate, half subsidized. Construction is being done in phases to prevent displacement. Every resident of the old Colville who chose to remain on the estate has been guaranteed a new, better home.

A similar makeover by Karakusevic Carson, working with HHBR Architects, is refashioning Kings Crescent Estate, from the 1970s, in a different part of Hackney. There, changes involve renovations to older, existing buildings as well as the construction of sleek new mid-rise gray-brick apartment blocks that fill in stretches of long-vacant land where poorly maintained council towers were demolished in the early 2000s.

More than a hundred older apartments are now fitted out with features residents requested, like winter gardens and balconies. Another 170 will be refurbished soon and 200 more new apartments built. New and old buildings have been seamlessly integrated. Together they define new courtyard blocks along a grid of streets and open spaces that weave Kings Crescent into the surrounding neighborhood.

Subsidized and market-rate tenants at Kings Crescent share entrances, floors, apartment layouts and open spaces. There are no so-called poor doors to distinguish entrances for different incomes. Subsidized tenants bought into the scheme because it delivered obvious benefits. Market-rate residents bought into it because it gave them first-rate apartments in a rapidly gentrifying neighborhood. Materials are high quality, units light-filled, the brick architecture substantial, dignified, well-proportioned, simple and modern.

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