You are on page 1of 8

The Social Housing of Garden Cities

The dilemma of conceptual idea and urbanism

By: Khalafalla Omer M.Sc. Global Urban Development & Planning, University of Manchester, UK
Architect and Urban Planner MBA in Project Management, University of Science and Technology, Sudan
B.Sc. in Architecture and Spatial Planning, University of Science and Technology, Sudan
Table of Contents

Abstract .............................................................................................................. 2

Introduction........................................................................................................ 2

Section 1 The existence of Howards utopian idea ........................................... 2

Section 2 - Nexus of old urbanism patterns to the status-que ............................ 4

Section 3 Affordability and social responsibility .............................................. 5

Conclusion ......................................................................................................... 6

Reference List .................................................................................................... 7


Garden Cities evolved as an effective idea that can tackle the housing crises and assure a better
housing delivery for the low income communities. In this short essay I will examine wither the
garden cities are still a viable idea or not; by examining the viability of three main fundamental
aspects that brought up the garden cities; the conceptual idea, the urbanism patterns and the
common sense of socialism behind delivering garden cities. Introduced by a short brief of the
evolving of garden cities.


The way in which Garden Cities is shaping our public life is dated to 116 years ago, when the
highly rate urbanization in many European cities accrued because of highly civic and economic
opportunities offered within cities as a consequence of industrial revolution. The living
conditions of working class in cities were worse due to overcrowded slums, lack of sanitation,
inadequate water supply, and little attention to sunlight. The cities as well, were polluted by the
smoky unhealthy condition of mechanics production. Sir Ebenezer Howard(1850 1928), a
parliamentary stenographer was exposed to revolutionary radical ideas. During his work, he
mingled with other freethinkers and socialists, which later influenced him to address the social
struggle of working class whom working in either isolated farms or unhealthy city conditions.
This is the main reason behind his potentials in initiating The Garden City Movement in 1898 as
an alternative urban solution for the sake of better living condition of working class. Howards
garden city movement in that sense can be well described and criticized with refer to the
following three main aspects that shaped what called The Garden Cities.

Section 1 The existence of Howards utopian idea:-

To start with the fact that Howards approach considered as a utopian conceptual urban idea
that combined the best of town and country side as well. The pure air alongside with the beauty
of nature, the low housing rents embedded with law density area, the flow of capital that rise job
opportunities and the provision of urban utility surrounded by places of amusements were in
fact the main characters of Howards utopian idea. In his famous book; A Peaceful Path to Real
Reform, he draw in his broad conceptual idea in an illustration diagram called The Three
Magnates Program (See Figure 1). The conceptual idea of garden cities spread dramatically in
many of developed countries, solving the challenges of urban growth within the limited land
capacity outlined by cities territorial boundaries.

The conceptual idea of Garden City became a solution in many developed cities facing scarcity
in urban land, alongside with high rate of urban growth. Land allocation to house the growing
population is problematic issue facing urban planners. Howere, the political will and recent
studies reflects the capability of Howards utopian idea to cope with current urban growth
challenges. On one hand, a recent study conducted in 2014 shows that Sheffield city has to build
100,000 houses in the next 20 years, through building 5000 homes a year to meet the
anticipated city urban growth. But, in fact the city territorial boundary has limited the city
capacity to house the required numbers of houses, as only 70,000 houses could be built within
the city urban and brownfield lands. According to this current situation, the study suggest
pushing the government to go for urban extension solution by allocating a countryside
greenbelt land to launch a garden city in order to build the remaining 3000 home. It is possible
that the Government may introduce powers in this Parliament to facilitate housing growth zones
or garden cities and this report provides a starting point for the sort of initiatives that Sheffield
could put forward for these programs (URBED, 2015). This finding approves that cities tend to
make use of town and countryside to meet the challenges of urban growth. On the other hand,
many UK politicians are following the approach of garden cities, UKs Labour party commit that
garden cities is an alternative solution to deal with context of urban growth within the
geographical spatial city limits, We will deliver a new generation of New Towns and Garden
Cities, and give a new right to grow to communities who want to expand but are blocked by
neighbouring local authorities. (Who Shall I Vote For?. 2016). This example demonstrates the
left political commitment to make up the garden cities by make use of the countryside greenbelt
areas to cope with urban growth challenges.

Figure 1 - The Three Magnets from Garden Cities of Tomorrow, 1902 Ebenezer Howard

Section 2 Nexus of old urbanism patterns to the status-que

Second, garden cities evolved in 1898 as a fully master planned urbanism, as each garden city is
about to house 32000 people in 6000 acre planned to assure a self-contained communities, land
is allocated for three main purpose; residential, industrial and agriculture, surrounded by green
belts. Each city as well has access to public spaces and parks through concentric patterns of 37m
wide six radial boulevards. And when each garden city reached the population limit, another
garden city would be lunched. All of these garden cities are linked through a systematic rail
transportation system. But is this urbanism approach still workable todays?, following is critics
answers to the question.

From physical urbanism approach, Howards master plan was not meant to address the issue of
private cars, as cars were used to be accommodated within its flexible street lanes patterns.
Wansbroughs, a UK based leading law firm highlighted that 33% of garden cities neighbors
disputes are because of blocked access to drive way and occupy neighbors parking space
without their permission, which obviously noticed in UK Garden Cities (See Figure 2), Howard
did not have to tackle the problem of the private car, but had he done so it is unlikely that he
would need to change the basic pattern of his garden cities. (Garden Cities: Why do they
remain a captivating concept?, 2015). As a result of this distributes there would be a need to
rethink the urbanism patterns of garden cities to make it more car/pedestrian friendly cities.
Moving to social urbanism point of view, its believed that garden cities were embedded a
common sense of socialism approach as noted later, but it is still considered a top-down
approach. Actually, local communities were not participating in drawing up the urbanism
patterns. Reaching community self-sufficient approach dictates a room for community led
urbanism. Jane Jacobs (1916 2006), an urban activist argue that community were excluded from
being a part of the planning process of Howards garden cities His aim was the creation of self-
sufficient small towns, really very nice towns if you were docile and had no plans of your own
and did not mind spending your life with others with no plans of their own (The Academy of
Urbanism, 2015). In that sense, there will be always disadvantages in following the same social
and physical patterns of Howards garden cities.

Figure 2 - Lacuna, Kent - Garden City

Section 3 Affordability and social responsibility

At the end, the garden city suggested by Howards was a common sense of socialism. Through
collaborative efforts among funders, municipalities and inhabitants themselves, an affordable
garden city is delivered to the working class to live and work in. Funders supply loans to
municipalities to buy a land at agreed depressed countryside area, taking into account the
contrast rate of land price, 4 pounds an acre in countryside and 30,000 pounds an acre in city
centers urban lands. The initial loans to municipalities suggested to be paid through long term
installments with interest rate, in order to build the urban infrastructure provision alongside with
estate social service system such as old age pension and insurance. During this process, the land
is a shared ownership between municipal and inhabitants, through which the municipalities
gradually handed the land down to the newcomers inhabitants. And the more newcomers
inhabit their new residence, the more valuable land would be.

Unfortunately, nowadays in UK, there is a shortage in supplying garden cities for the sake of
housing low-income people. Although the garden cities tend to be affordable for all people, the
developers claim that their plan become not feasible. As well, the government is not yet put
pressure to solve the problem of housing crises. Hugh Ellis, a member of Town and Country
Planning Association said The first wave of garden cities and new towns demonstrate that the
large-scale building of social homes is achievable only through good planning and governments
that see housing as crucial to national welfare and social progress. (Guardian, 2014). The way in
which garden cities are developed should be reformed. Lands become overpriced as the
landowners tempt to pay for planning professional to get a planning permission from them,
which is the opposite of garden cities approach in deliver affordable housing by buying an
affordable countryside land, then turn it into valuable residential land use. A structure planning
reformation through corporative associations should come together to sustain a planning act,
and systems to secure an affordable delivering of garden cities that can serve the low income
communities (See Figure 3).

Figure 3 - New garden cities will no have affordable housing targets, according to planning minister Nick Boles. Photograph:


As examined in the above mentioned argument, it can be concluded that garden cities is still
viable nowadays, its conceptual utopian idea can still tackle the challenges of urban growth and
city territorial limits. However, there is a requirement to reform the social and physical urbanism
patterns of Howards Garden cities in-order to make it more participatory city and
car/pedestrian friendly cities as well. Also there is a need for planning law reformation,
collaborative political/association pressure and appropriate financial mechanism to ensure the
affordability garden cities houses that would serve the low-income communities.

Reference List:-

Urbed. (2015). Sheffield Garden City? Options for long term urban growth. Available at: (Accessed:
14 November 2016).

Who Shall I Vote For. (2016). Compare Labour policies against Green policies. Available at: (Accessed: 14 November

Garden Cities: Why do they remain a captivating concept? (2015) YouTube video, added by
UrbanNous [Online]. Available at (Accessed:
14 November 2016).

The Academy of Urbanism (2015). Urbanism and the Garden City. Available at: (Accessed: 14
November 2016).

Ellis, H. (2014). Failure to include affordable housing in new garden cities is big disappointment,
the Guardian, 2 May. Available at:
network/2014/may/02/garden-cities-affordable-social-housing (Accessed: 14 November 2016).