Selection of the site is, arguably, the single most important consideration in the process of providing housing.
Factors such as the location, size and accessibility of a site and its proximity to amenities and services are important to the future development of a self-sustaining community. In the wider context, any new housing development will have a significant impact on the area in which it is located. Unless due care is given to the task of selecting suitable sites, opportunities for achieving improvements in the general environment of an area may be lost or greatly diminished. The degree of care taken in assessing the site, so that its constraints are recognised and its advantages can be exploited, will have a significant bearing on the quality of the housing development that emerges.
In relation to social housing and mixed tenure schemes, it is important that housing authorities and housing
bodies avail themselves of the opportunities provided by the social housing programme to ensure that their housing
schemes will contribute to the integrated development of the areas in which they are located. New housing can act as a catalyst for the renewal of a rundown or under-utilised area by strengthening the fabric of urban centres; regenerating rundown areas; bringing back a mixture of uses to urban centres; locating people where services are available; and developing new areas of mixed use carefully integrated into existing patterns.
The Process of Site Selection
Site selection should be carried out in a structured way on the basis of pre-determined criteria. The most important consideration is whether a site is capable of being developed in a way that is likely to meet the needs and aspirations of future residents. Sites that initially appear to have little potential because of small size, awkward shape, difficult access, etc., should not be summarily dismissed. There are many examples where skill and imagination on the part of the architect, developer and client have resulted in the creation of very
successful housing schemes on such sites.
The process of selection might commence with a series of questions about the area in which the housing scheme is to be provided, e.g., Could new development be inserted to reinforce the street pattern or are there buildings that, if redeveloped, might facilitate access to a larger site behind?
Is there scope, in a primarily commercial street, to build shops at street level with dwellings above?
Are there large plots behind existing houses in a street that might accommodate an
urban infill type of development?
Are there other buildings, perhaps no longer occupied, which could be refurbished, upgraded or extended to provide residential accommodation?
Are there derelict buildings, unused sites or poorly utilised sites in the area or are there redundant or functionally obsolete buildings which could be redeveloped or converted for residential use?
Could parts of such buildings or sites be used for housing, with compatible uses in other parts?
In relation to social housing, some additional questions might include:
Does the local authority already have in its possession sites that were acquired for other purposes, are no longer required for such purposes and are suitable for housing?
Are there sites whose development for housing would complement existing or planned improvements under an urban renewal programme?
If the proposed site is adjoining an existing social housing scheme, consideration should be given to suitability and mix of tenure.
The use of suitable infill sites for the building of housing schemes can facilitate a mix of residential tenure within an area, thereby helping to promote social integration and facilitating the creation of vibrant, sustainable communities;
help to restore, strengthen or upgrade the social and physical fabric of an area and eliminate derelict, under-utilised areas.
Also it can maximise use of existing infrastructure; act as a catalyst for urban regeneration; and improve the appearance of an area, enhance the public realm and help to give a sense of place for the people who will live there.