All urban areas are in a constant state of flux. Some, like London, struggle to cope with the consequences of growth: a shortage of affordable housing; rapid and often unwelcome neighbourhood change; competition for a limited amount of land. Other cities must manage decline and low demand.

What does it mean to live in a city of constant and rapid change?

It is vital to ensure that local and national governments have the right policy tools, and that policymakers and other stakeholders have the information they need to understand and respond to rapidly changing environments. Our services span across the following areas:

-  Urban planning and sustainable development
-  Housing policy
-  Land and the urban economy
-  Building communities

Urban planning and sustainable development

Planning for sustainable cities involves balancing the relationship between the various components of the built environment — housing, transport, retail and commercial uses, parks and public spaces — as well as considering cultural heritage and environmental impact. Appropriate governance structures, updated planning strategies and sound financing mechanisms are key to the successful design and implementation of local policies and plans.

Housing policy

Housing, and particularly the lack of affordable housing, is the central policy issue in global cities like London, but also in many smaller conurbations. The public sector no longer builds large amounts of social housing or provides generous grants to non-profit providers to do so both here and in most developed countries.

Today’s policymakers face a major challenge to provide enough affordable housing —especially as even middle-income households cannot afford market housing in some cities. Policymakers must also tackle homelessness and create strategies to foster communities and reduce social inequalities, while ensuring a well-operating housing market. Issues range from accommodating vulnerable people and enhancing neighbourhoods, to providing public transportation, developing supportive legal frameworks for urban extensions, and protecting public space.

Land and the urban economy

The shape of cities depends on topography but equally importantly on regulation, on history and on patterns of land ownership. A few are compact and circular; more are marked by spatial sprawl. They can grow vertically or horizontally, and different patterns of urbanisation have implications for land values, rent and economic activity. Only through understanding the economics of land can policymakers shape incentives so as to produce better-functioning urban spaces.  

Building communities

Strong local communities are the foundation of vibrant and resilient cities, yet in today's hyper-mobile world it can be challenging to build genuine place-based communities, especially in entirely new developments. Developers and local governments are experimenting with a range of community-building techniques including greater provision of community and public space and design features intended to encourage interaction. There is increasing interest in avowedly ‘community first’ options such as cohousing, self-build and community land trusts, and elements of these innovative approaches are now making their way into the mainstream.