Design watchdog CABE has teamed up with its French counterpart, Direction de l'Architecture et du Patrimoine, to launch a competition for social housing in London and Paris, writes Sally Mesner.
The Anglo-French Affordable Housing Initiative aims to develop international best practice in the design of affordable homes using joint-venture French and British design teams.

The Kent Architecture Centre, which is running the contest for CABE, is looking for practices to work with developers and housing associations on four sites, two in the UK and two in France.

Two sites have been singled out for development in the capital. They are the White City Centre redevelopment in west London, which involves 45 housing units on a 0.81 ha site for Octavia Housing Association, and the Rayners Lane estate in Harrow, north-west London, which involves the phased development of 735 units for Warden Housing Association. The French sites are both in Paris, at Ile de France and Senart.

The project was initiated by architect Ian Ritchie two and a half years ago after he was invited to speak at a conference on social housing architecture in France and the UK.

The design world has a lot of ideas that the industry is not using

Barry Shaw, Kent Architecture Centre

Ritchie became interested in the idea because recent social housing in Europe has usually followed models from the Netherlands. He said: "The project is a counterpoint to just taking the Dutch example. There are some pretty awful estates on the outskirts of Holland, but nobody ever talks about those."

Barry Shaw, chief executive of the Kent Architecture Centre, said that the he wanted to expand the project and was looking for suitable sites. The centre is seeking expressions of interest from housing associations.

Shaw added that housing projects in the south-east of England would benefit from similar design benchmarking. The centre is launching a series of affordable housing initiatives over the next 18 months, and is in talks with three developers about pilot schemes.