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Meet the councils quietly building a housing revolution


The Guardian


Oliver Wainwright


The Stirling prize-winning Norwich estate is the tip of the iceberg: despite government cuts, local authorities are finding innovative ways to build housing.

A crescent of semi-detached houses stands on the edge of a playing field in Conisbrough, South Yorkshire, offering views of the rolling hills beyond. With pointed gables, big picture windows and generous back gardens dotted with trampolines, it looks like a development of aspirational “executive homes”, awaiting its gilded electric gates and four-wheel-drives.

“We had people coming along trying to buy them when the hoardings came down,” says Charlotte Johnson, housing manager at Doncaster Council. They had to turn the crowds away – because these are council houses, some of the first built here for a generation. It is just one example of what many local authorities are now managing to achieve up and down the country, against the odds, after decades of central government inaction. Last week, the award for the best new building in the UK went to Goldsmith Street in Norwich, another exemplary development of council homes, marking the first time the hallowed RIBA Stirling prize has been given to social housing. The award sends a powerful message: despite government cuts, a number of bold councils are getting on and doing it for themselves.

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