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Delivering higher density suburban development: the impact of building design and residents’ attitudes

Navarrete-hernandez, Pablo, Mace, Alan ORCID: 0000-0001-9920-8765, Karlsson, Jacob, Holman, Nancy and Zorloni, Davide Alberto (2022) Delivering higher density suburban development: the impact of building design and residents’ attitudes. Urban Studies, 59 (13). 2801 - 2820. ISSN 0042-0980

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Identification Number: 10.1177/00420980211036633


The urgent need for housing in London will be met almost exclusively through building on brownfield sites. While Inner and suburban Outer London are both home to a range of brownfield sites, the politics of delivering new housing varies between the two. First, Outer London is built at significantly lower density and therefore densification has a more noticeable impact. Second, many residents in Outer London value living at lower density and will see densification as undermining that which they value. Third, homeownership is more common in Outer London and as housing is the most significant asset for most homeowners any threat to its value is likely to be strongly resisted. Our research tests whether design can positively impact both the perception and acceptability of densification. For this, we run a randomised control trial presenting 939 Outer London residents with simulated images representing different design features. We find that the effects of building design are limited and relate almost exclusively to low and medium density options. Our research shows that vernacular design can make some increase in density acceptable but for significantly higher density the influence of design declines. As density increases, the perception and acceptability of density are more influenced by people’s views on, for example, the extent of London’s housing crisis. This indicates that planners and politicians must reach beyond design and seek to better inform and persuade residents about housing need if the impasse on densification is to be overcome.

Item Type: Article
Official URL:
Additional Information: © 2021 Urban Studies Journal Limited
Divisions: Geography & Environment
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HD Industries. Land use. Labor
H Social Sciences > HT Communities. Classes. Races
Date Deposited: 27 Aug 2021 13:36
Last Modified: 14 Oct 2022 09:21

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