Housing problems in developed countries

Social and demographic changes are leading to a greater demand for housing in developed countries. People are living longer, choosing to marry later and in recent years there has been a rise in the number of single-parent families. Added to this, the UK is experiencing immigration from other countries.

However, building new, affordable homes in urban areas is difficult. Land values are very high and land is in short supply.

In many Scottish and UK cities, housing redevelopments have learned from the mistakes of the post-war years and are now upgrading the quality of low cost housing while trying to retain, and in many cases improve the sense of community. There is a drive to improve infrastructure and opportunities in these areas, rather than 'rehouse and flatten'.

This contrasts with recent suggestions from cities such as Mumbai where local authorities are planning to flatten huge areas of sub-standard housing. These areas obviously have huge welfare issues but benefit from a strong community and entrepreneurial spirit.

Thirty-years ago most urban renewal involved knocking down existing buildings – urban redevelopment – and replacing them with new ones. Today older buildings are often improved or renovated, not demolished. This means local people can continue living in the area.

Suburban 20th/21st century residential areas are located:

  • on the outskirts of a city
  • near the green belt
  • within commuting distance from the CBD

Features of these areas include:

  • expensive private housing
  • detached houses, with gardens and garages
  • high land values
  • main roads/railway stations near, but not in, area for commuters
  • street patterns which prevent through traffic and allow privacy and attractive designs, such as cul-de-sacs/crescents
  • close proximity to the green belt and, often, attractive landscapes such as woodlands, parkland and river valleys and lakes
  • amenities, including golf courses, schools, churches and small shopping areas
  • low density housing, with open spaces and landscaping

Why are these 20th century residential areas in the suburbs?

  • cities expanded outwards because there was no room near the centre
  • commuters can travel to the CBD for work by car or train
  • suburbs offer a less polluted environment, away from industrial areas
  • there are attractive surroundings, open spaces, farmland and golf courses
  • there is room to build housing estates with large houses and gardens