11 Aug 2009

New Homes Too Small

News that CABE has found that new homes are too small will come as a surprise to no one at all. We’ve long known that the UK builds the smallest new homes in Europe. As there are no minimum space standards set out in the building regs or the planning conditions, why on Earth would we expect anything else?

And unlike the terraced homes that the Victorians built (which were also too small), there is no obvious way of improving the new homes we are now building.

The really uncomfortable question isn’t being asked here by CABE. Which is: were these small homes being built to satisfy a genuine need or were they a credit-fuelled gamble on rising house prices?

Or to put it another way, it didn’t matter that the bottom rung of the housing ladder was so small that you couldn’t actually get your foot on it, just so long as it was there.


  1. Doesn't it start at planning stage where there appears to be a basic assumption that smaller is more acceptable?

    We build small homes, then the ones next to them cannot be seen to 'dominate' the street scene, so we build smaller still... let's face it, we're ashamed to build decent sized homes.

  2. Well yes, I think that is a good point.

    Another aspect is that the government targets for MINIMUM housing densities are being met. I don't know what these figures are but I have read that the minimum acceptable density now is greater than the max density in the 80's. Had we had a slightly bigger plot for our selfbuild we would have been required to build not 2 but 3 houses on it!

    Building at high density has been spun as a 'green' thing to do because less land is 'covered in concrete'. Gardens don't count as green spaces apparently.

    It is one of the reasons there have been so many flats built - it's a way of getting enough 'housing units' to meet the targets on any given site. Of course the additional profit doesn't hurt either

  3. ANTHONY SOUTHEYAugust 17, 2009

    Strangely there is basic minimum space standards which I believe are still on statute [ http://www.opsi.gov.uk/acts/acts1957/pdf/ukpga_19570056_en.pdf ]page 131 - for min habitable room sizes. Once I had a planning application consultation in which the Environmental Health Officer invoked this where the designed bedrooms were slightly below the sizes. Estate Agents & Builders should be brought to account for bedroom desciptions accordingly ...

  4. Anthony,

    You are a mine of information. I found the relevant Act OK - I wonder if it's still in effect?

  5. The minimum space requirements (Parker Morris standards) only applied to local authority built housing. When Maggie allowed tenants to buy their own house and take it out of council ownership (thereby depriving other potential tenants of cheap housing) councils stopped building houses because they didn't get the pittance that the tenants bought their house for.

    A couple of links to newspaper articles about the CABE report


  6. Kirstie Allsopp is reported as commenting that one of the problems for developers, forced to build to already-tight Government-imposed requirements for housing densities, is that the Great British Public is obsessed with owning a detached house and dislikes terraces. Cue more wasted space between these little detached houses with their micro-gardens.

    I think it's unfair of buildingstoat to attack developers and builders for seeking to make a profit. Not only are developers forced to pack their sites to meet minimum density requirements, they also have to give away 33-50% of the houses as "affordable homes" (they are only paid the build costs by housing associations, so all land and development cost have to be carried by the remaining private houses), and pay punitive Section 106 taxes as well, currently running at £12,000 for a 3-bed and £20,000 for a 4-bed house in my area. Private new housing developments are seen as a cash cow by government, local councils and housing associations, never mind landowners, so it's not surprising developers are forced to build crowded sites if they are ever to make any money.