Kelvin famously has a passionate interest in the future of towns and cities and is indefatigable really, having written government policy, published numerous books and articles on the subject and regularly speaking at conferences and advising a number of cities on design matters.
The subtitle of the session was What DO we tell Boris? as Kelvin and the guys are seeing the mayor at the end of the month. So we found ourselves as the sort of dry-run as to what he should be saying to Mr Johnson, Mr Blakeway and Mr Lunts (indeed we have found that people often use our forum as just this: a supportive group of critical friends who will assist in developing and honing arguments; last time we had Malcolm Allan previewing his presentation to the Scottish Parliament for Place Matters).
Kelvin is heading up the hugely important London Popular Home Initiative, with five London boroughs led by Brent Council (each borough taking a slightly different approach which is the first play to localism we've yet seen in London), two contractors and three social housing providers; the outcome of this work, to be completed in June 2012, will be a scoping report and a presentation to the new deputy mayor for housing in London and his team.
And he asks the reductio-ad-absurdum questions: just how did housing become so difficult? Our basic instinct has always been to create shelter, but today we seem unable to do so. We know that 325,000 new homes are needed for London by 2025, construction costs for housing are 40% higher than our mainland European counterparts and there has been a 50% loss in housing capacity in recent years.
Put this together with a lack of finance, and new ideas to solve the problem and we have a serious challenge - one that cannot be solved just by using our old models. And it is so very serious: we had a serious number of serious professionals in the room, including our wondrous NBF Stevan Brown of CH2MHill, fresh from its triumph at the Athletes Village, who made some stellar observations (and who is, if anything, nearly as incandescent with rage about it all as I am, which I didn't think was possible) and Kelvin enjoys huge support from the enlightened sections of the industry for his radical new vision of freeing up the market.
We watch with interest. This could be one of our greatest chances to dismantle the well-understood barriers to housing recovery and open up the housing market to a wider set of players. Refreshingly, the London Popular Home Initiative is an approach, rather than a programme.
Crucially, Kelvin asks why do we have to reinvent the wheel every time; how can we get the benefits of replicability without sacrificing design quality; and is keen on the old "pattern book" beloved by the Victorian and Edwardian builders who were responsible for most of our (decent) London housing stock. Builders, not architects, are key of course and the professionals may find all of this a little threatening, but hey! We need to find ways of speeding up delivery through the planning system and a standard product could provide it.
The London Popular Home Initiative will seek to address all of this and more. UKR pledges support of course. We will put our shoulder to any wheel.