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Are New Homes in the UK Large Enough for Everyday Living?

Michelle Symonds

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A range of families across the UK were interviewed for a study by the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) who have been involved in a long-running campaign to bring to the public's attention the lack of adequate space for everyday living in new homes being built in the UK today. A number of people reported storing food and household items in the boot of their cars because the available storage space in their homes was simply insufficient. Yet others stored their vacuum cleaners permanently in their living spaces due to a lack of adequate storage space. It seems that it is becoming increasingly difficult for a family to store their basic possessions in a typical new-build 3-bedroom “family" home.

The report also provides important evidence to reinforce the general public's perception that new homes are simply not large enough and it aims to instigate changes in the way new-build homes are planned and marketed. The report reveals in detail how poorly planned and how cramped many new homes in the United Kingdom are. It is intended that this RIBA/IPSOS Mori Report will be used by the Future Homes Commission, which is researching the quality of new homes being built in the UK today, including from the perspective of storage space and space for everyday living, particularly for families.

It is recognised that space is a very important issue when you are buying or renting a new home because a lack of space impacts substantially on basic lifestyle needs such as storing personal possessions, living comfortably with our family and entertaining our friends.

New homes in the UK have been revealed to be substantially smaller than the rest of Europe and the USA where homes are generally marketed based on the available living space as a measurement in square feet (or square metres) to help the consumer more easily assess value for money. In the UK homes are still typically sold based on the number of bedrooms and reception rooms, which can be misleading figures in terms of the comfort and ease with which a family can occupy a home.

Shockingly, RIBA discovered that the floor area of an average 3-bedroom new build family home in the UK is a mere 88 square metres. This is 8 square metres less than the minimum floor area recommended by the Greater London Authority in July 2011 in their report “The London Plan: Spatial Development Strategy for Greater London". This shortfall in space is the equivalent of a single bedroom with room for a bed, bedside table, wardrobe, desk and chair. But because this is an average figure there are many new 3-bedroom houses that are even smaller and fall short of recommended space by the equivalent of two double bedrooms.

These limitations in space within family homes can have consequences later in life where older people may need to adapt their living space as they become less mobile. In a smaller home they will have fewer options and may not be able to remain in their family home as their needs change. With many older people now preferring to stay in their own home a have a live-in carer rather than move to a residential care home , it is becoming apparent that lack of space can restrict later life options. There are currently no UK-wide standards and the issue of space and adequate storage in London , in particular, is even more pressing than in the rest of the UK because of the high cost of land and property.


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