Prince Charles’ American urban design adviser wants to use an ODPM-backed regeneration initiative to demonstrate how a planning technique established in the US can improve the quality of life in Britain’s cities.
Hank Dittmar, the recently appointed chief executive of the Prince’s Foundation, said the US government’s Hope VI programme was a key element of “new urbanism”, the movement among US planners and architects dedicated to the creation of sustainable urban communities. Prince Charles is a known advocate of new urbanism.
The Hope VI programme, which was established in 1992, aims to replace failing public housing projects with socially mixed neighbourhoods. It combines grants for physical regeneration with funding for management improvements and support services to promote economic and social self-sufficiency for residents.
Dittmar said: “The Prince’s Trust is keen to find a place to demonstrate Hope VI over here with a housing estate that needs to be redeveloped. It would be a great example.”
Whitehall officials are currently working up details of a UK version of the scheme, which will initially be piloted on three severely deprived estates in east London, Manchester and Leeds. The ODPM announced plans to turn the estates into sustainable, mixed-tenure, mixed-income communities in February.
Chancellor Gordon Brown then announced six more pilots in last month’s Budget, the locations of which have yet to be revealed.
The government is understood to be keen to allow the individual councils considerable scope to determine the density and tenure mix of each redevelopment scheme, because of the variation in needs of different areas.
The trust is keen to find a place to demonstrate Hope VI in the UK
Hank Dittmar, Prince’s Foundation
Dittmar, the former chairman of the Congress for New Urbanism, added that the US federal government programme had used Hope VI to rejuvenate many previously mono-tenure estates as socially balanced communities.
He said: “If you develop a mixed community and do it in a way that housing for low-income people is not distinguishable from the rest, you are going to have a much more healthy approach.”
Dittmar’s comments coincide with a visit to the US by senior Whitehall civil servants, including senior Treasury housing and urban policy official Simon Ridley and Neighbourhood Renewal Unit operations director Alan Riddell, to see how the scheme worked.
The visit is being hosted by Bruce Katz, the director of the Brookings Institute urban policy think tank based in Washington DC. Katz was one of the keynote speakers at the ODPM’s recent sustainable communities summit in Manchester.
The team of civil servants will be quizzing their US counterparts on low-income housing tax credits, which developers can take advantage of if they provide a percentage of affordable homes.