A housing estate is a group of buildings built together as a single development. The exact form may vary from country to country. Accordingly, housing estate is usually built by a single contractor, with only a few styles of house or building design, so they tend to be uniform in appearance.
In the UK, housing estates have become prevalent since World War II, as a more affluent population demanded larger and more widely spaced houses coupled with the increase of car usage for which terraced streets were unsuitable.
Housing estates were produced by either local corporations or by private developers. The former tended to be a means of producing public housing leading to estates full of council houses and therefore known as "council estates".
In addition, the problems incurred by the early attempts at high density tower block housing turned people away from this style of living. The resulting demand for land has seen many towns and cities increase enormously in size for only moderate increases in population. This has been largely at the expense of rural and greenfield land. There is now much evidence coming to light of a severe and detrimental impact on the environment as a result, partly from the change of land use caused by the estates themselves, and partly because most estates encourage rather than discourage the use of the car for transport. Recently, there has been some effort to address this problem by banning the development of out-of-town commercial developments, and encouraging the reuse of brownfield or previously developed sites for residential building. Nevertheless the demand for housing continues to rise, and in the UK at least has precipitated a significant housing crisis.
In the UK the post war new towns were constructed en masse from housing estates rather than as organic growth from a population centre.