The Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) has today launched a stinging attack on the UK housebuilding sector. The institute believes that some new homes in the UK, which it describes as “rabbit hutch” homes, are smaller than the UK government’s “minimum reasonable space standards” which were launched in October. This has prompted a response from the UK construction sector citing customer satisfaction as a means of rubberstamping the quality of their homes.
The Institute sampled a number of homes across the UK and found that some were between 6.7 m² and 10.8 m² too small. This equates to the size of a double bedroom and there are concerns that it is having an impact upon the ability for families to socialise and store everyday equipment.
Minimum space standards in London
While the London property market seems to receive more than its fair share of criticism it is worthwhile noting that the minimum space standards came into force for London property back in 2011. RIBA suggest that homes in London are on average around 25 m² larger than those in Yorkshire for example although there are significant variations across the country.
This does not explain the significant uplift in London property prices compared to regional counterparts but it is perhaps a factor which many people have overlooked.
Is this really a problem going forward?
RIBA believes that the reduced size of some UK homes is impacting the ability of families to socialise on a regular basis. There are also concerns about growing families and the minimal space available in some new builds which could lead to crowding. However, the fact is that when you acquire a property you are fully aware of its size, the rooms available and it is ultimately the choice of the buyer whether they follow through with an acquisition.
We also need to take into account the fact that land is now at a premium across the UK and if the government and housebuilding industry are serious about catching up with new build numbers then perhaps smaller homes will be required? It is very difficult to balance the issue of new build numbers and property size and please everybody all of the time.
If there is one area of the UK economy which has attracted more than its fair share of regulatory attention, aside from the banking industry, it has to be the property sector. We have seen governments increase taxes, clampdown on overcrowding, force landlords to ensure their tenants are legally entitled to be in the UK and introduce an array of other building regulations. So, it is perhaps a little unfair to put the housebuilding industry under so much pressure and then suggest that properties need to be larger?
The UK government recently announced the minimum space standards for the rest of the UK and we are likely to see more news on this issue in the short to medium term. As a consequence we could see larger homes in the UK going forward but at what cost?
If we are talking about the potential loss of a double bedroom or bathroom, comparing some properties against the minimum space standards, there will be an additional cost for buyers to rectify this issue. We know only too well that everything has a price in the property sector.