If you have ever found yourself bumping an elbow while cleaning your teeth or getting in your partner’s way when making a cup of tea then you may be living in a home that most of our European neighbours would think of as too small. As land values have soared alongside increased demand for new housing we have seen ever-shrinking property sizes in the UK.
A recent survey by the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) discovered that the average size of a new one-bedroom home is just 46 sqm, which is about the same size as a London Underground train carriage. This figure is 4 sqm below the minimum recommended size under recently agreed London standards for a comfortable one-bedroom flat, with some homes from the big developers coming in at just 41 sqm. The shortfall in size may sound small in real terms, but, as RIBA point out, 4sqm would be enough space for a single bed with dressing table, or a sofa, a desk and a chair.
New family homes don’t fare much better, with the average three-bedroom property coming in at 88 sqm. This is 8 sqm short of the recommended space needed, which would be enough space for another single bedroom. The figures look negligible when buying off-plan or when looking through estate agents’ brochures, but they can make a real difference to your home life, influencing anything from how many mates you can get round for an evening in to how large a family you can have in that home. Storage is another factor to consider, with many new homes shoehorning bedrooms into what may have been storage space in a previous era, or leaving you with awkwardly-shaped rooms. It is hard to think about interior design when you barely have enough room for your possessions.
Of course, something has to give in the race to find affordable homes for a growing population, but RIBA argue that space should not be it and are backing a campaign for national legal guidelines on minimum sizes for homes across the UK. We now have the smallest new homes in Western Europe, with flats heading for the sizes more commonly seen in Tokyo and Manhattan.
To drive the message home, RIBA have created an online test so that homeowners and potential homeowners can find out how their accommodation fares. It certainly makes for a handy guide when browsing property online and how a new home may work. This is certainly a tool that should be at the fingertips of those who wish to take advantage of the Government’s new Help To Buy mortgage schemes for new homes. After all, you may be waiting for something a tad smaller (and possibly older) in an area you can afford rather than going for something that could be seen as restrictively small in years to come.