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Britain's new homes smallest in Europe

A modern house with a for sale sign outsideBritain's new homes are getting smaller. In fact, the experts say our new-build homes are the smallest in western Europe. But a new campaign aims to rectify this.

Only one out of four homebuyers would choose to purchase a new-build home, according to the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA).

This is despite the launch, last March, of the government-backed NewBuy Guarantee scheme to help first-time buyers onto the property ladder and build thousands of new homes.

It allows buyers to purchase a new-build property with a 5 per cent deposit, instead of the 20 per cent deposit common in today's mortgage market.

Perhaps the number of homebuyers turning their backs on new-build homes might have something to do with how small they are.

Homes the size of a London tube carriage

At 46 square metres, the size of the average one-bedroom new-build home in Britain is the same as a London Underground tube carriage, according to RIBA.

Why? Because outside of London, there are currently no minimum standards and regulations for homebuilders about the amount of space that should be available in a flat or house.

And one window per room at just 45cm squared is the current regulation for natural light.

This is the same size as the average cushion.

Small home statistics

  • The average home in the UK used to be 85m² and had 5.2 rooms, with an average area of 16.3m² per room.
  • The average new home in the UK is now 76m² and has 4.8 rooms, with an average area of 15.8m² per room.
  • England, Wales and Northern Ireland lack space standards. London is the only place in the country to have introduced legal minimum space standards for both public and private housing. Outside of London, minimum space standards only apply to social housing.

*Source: RIBA

Smallest homes in western Europe

As a result, Britain is now home to the smallest new properties in western Europe, claims RIBA.

Angela Brady, RIBA  president, said: "The country is in the grip of the worst housing crisis in decades and there is an urgent need to provide more affordable, quality homes.

"In their rush to build the government must avoid the temptation to reduce current standards and give the go-ahead for builders to produce another generation of poor-quality homes, without adequate space and natural light."

RIBA is now calling on the government to set new space standards and new minimum requirements for natural light in all new homes.

TV presenter Kevin McCloud, who fronts Channel 4 show Grand Designs, is campaigning with RIBA.

McCloud said:  "A return to minimum space standards is crucial for the health and wellbeing of the people who will be living in new-build homes."

Lack of storage space

Here is a selection of quotes from householders who took part in RIBA's research on space - or the lack of it - in modern homes.

  • "I've lived in a couple of city centre apartments, and they don't tend to have storage space. You have your fitted wardrobe, I've got a cupboard under the stairs, and everything else is basically on show, so I've got to keep it tidy. I don't even have anywhere to put my towels."
  • "I buy lots of stuff in Tesco… if it's buy-one-get-one-free crisps, then we just leave it in the car."
  • "I've got a Christmas tree that that takes up most of the cupboard under the stairs. It'd be nice to have somewhere to just put everything away."
  • "I don't have anywhere to put the hoover... we don't use the bathroom toilet downstairs. It is mainly for guests and stuff. The hoover stays in there."

Have your say

In a few weeks' time the government will be making crucial decisions about the future of Britain's homes, including minimum standards for space, energy, security and natural light. 

RIBA is calling on the public to act now and demand their local MP supports the HomeWise campaign for national minimum standards on space and natural light.

Visit www.withoutspaceandlight.com and follow the simple steps to locate and contact your MP.

What do you think?

Are our homes getting smaller, and is this a problem?

What ingenious solutions have you, or anyone you know, come up with to tackle space, light and storage in your home?

We want to hear from you! You can share your views on the message board below.

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Naphtalia Loderick

Naphtalia Loderick

Naphtalia Loderick reports on all things personal finance at Confused.com. She started out on a weekly newspaper, via a national news agency and a stint in the fun but ‘not as glamorous as it appears on screen’ world of TV at the BBC researching consumer films for The One Show.

View more from Naphtalia



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