It’s easy to use the term ‘housing crisis’ glibly. It’s less easy to understand what is feels like for those who most acutely suffer some of its consequences.

One of these consequences has been the conversion of office buildings into living accommodation. Imagine this: an area of offices, commercial not residential; perhaps out of town; possibly in an area in decline; likely to be lacking local neighbourhood amenities; almost certainly not feeling too much like home.

The photographer Rob Clayton has specialised in “photographing the changing British social landscape” and his Estate photography and film has been acclaimed. It can be found here, narrated by Jonathan Meades.

Image copyright Rob Clayton, with thanks for permission

Praise for Rob’s work is as follows: “the documentary tradition which is, photographically speaking, one of England’s greatest exports within the arts….Through Estate, Robert has made an alarmingly brilliant study of British Council architecture from the roof to the courtyard of the buildings that he has photographed”. He was also involved in Disposession: The Great Social Housing Swindle which many readers will already be familiar with.

Because of his insightful and thought provoking photographs, the Town and Country Planning Association (TCPA) commissioned Rob Clayton to capture the experience and meaning of office conversions into ‘homes’ through Permitted Development Rights (PDR) to portray major concerns about space, security, fire safety, ventilation, lighting and access to amenities and green spaces. The powerful result was their These are Homes Photobook available here. It is perhaps unnecessary to provide commentary as these photographs both of the living space and lack of local amenities really do speak from themselves. The negative effects on the residents health and wellbeing is sadly only too clear as this BBC news story shows. And this Guardian article demonstrates problems of converting office blocks to homes.

Permitted Development Rights have enabled potential conversions of buildings that could fail to provide a decent living environment and this BBC story based in Watford received much attention. The irony is then that other regulation may be necessary to see to rectify unsatisfactory living conditions, rather than building decent homes in well planned, healthy environments in the first placed. The TCPA is also leading the way in campaigning for healthy homes and more information is available via the following links:

Campaign for Healthy Homes (

Healthy Homes Principles (

Levelling-up and Regeneration Bill – Parliamentary Bills – UK Parliament

Rob Clayton has certainly provided a portfolio of photographs showing living conditions and the local environment in a way that words never could.



For other posts on photography and film on my website, see:

Nick Hedges: Home – Housing Health Creativity (

Documentary photography and housing – Housing Health Creativity (

Learning from documentary type films – Housing Health Creativity (