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01 March 2021

Reimagining our post-pandemic cities

Has the pandemic presented an opportunity to reset our cities for the better?

High rise residential buildings in London

Professor Phil Hubbard unpacks how the pandemic has accentuated the failings of urban planning and housing in the UK on the latest episode of WORLD: we got this

Despite changes to the way we work, for those living in cities quality of life hasn’t necessarily improved. Rather, he argues:

I think the negatives outweigh the positives in terms of the social costs of isolation, the loss of face-to-face, and the trade-offs there…in terms of what most people think they’re gaining through new forms of working, actually in most cases are not compensated for in terms of quality of life or wellbeing improvements in the wider sense.

Professor Phil Hubbard

Studies conducted during the pandemic show that those living in larger homes in London are far more satisfied working from home than those in smaller homes across the city. This has caused many city-dwellers, particularly in younger age brackets, to consider moving further afield to towns where they have access to more indoor and outdoor space.

However, Professor Hubbard argues that the pandemic has created a unique opportunity to engage in urban renewal.

During lockdown Londoners residing in suburban areas on the peripheries of the city re-discovered local industries and high streets while a lack of footfall in the city centre resulted in retail decline and vacant spaces. This is an opportunity for local authorities to think about how they can repurpose these empty spaces to better serve their communities in the future.

Vacant spaces create opportunities for affordable housing, creative use of space and community-building initiatives. Yet Professor Hubbard cautions that developers and landlords are still looking to maximise profits - the result of which is often smaller, substandard and still relatively unaffordable homes.

He reminds us: ‘It’s not just about building affordable housing, its about building decent affordable housing.’

Listen to the full conversation on WORLD: we got this.

In this story

Philip Hubbard

Professor of Urban Studies