Architects say new houses are 'shameful shoebox homes'

  • 14 September 2011
  • From the section UK
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Media captionHarry Rich, Riba, says people are being left with no choice other than to buy a house that is too small for their needs

Many new houses in the UK are "shameful shoebox homes" which are too small for family life, the Royal Institute of British Architects (Riba) has said.

It says average three-bedroom houses are 8% smaller - the space of a single bedroom - than the recommended minimum.

The institute, which looked at 3,418 three-bedroom homes in England, based its findings on building regulations which have come into force in London.

The House Builders Federation says that bigger homes could prove unaffordable.

Riba's Case for Space study discovered the average two-storey three-bedroom home for five people was 8 sq m (86 sq ft) too small.

It claims the shortfall in space is the same size as a single bedroom with a bedside table, wardrobe, desk and chair.

The most common new three-bedroom house was found to be smaller still, with 77% of the recommended minimum space - a shortfall equivalent to two double bedrooms.

The institute's research was based on the 96 sq m (1033 sq ft) London Plan space standards which have just been introduced in the capital. There are currently no UK-wide standards.

'Cramped life'

Riba chief executive Harry Rich said new houses were causing some people to endure a lower quality of life.

"Our homes should be places that enhance our lives and well-being," he said.

"However, as our new research confirms, thousands of cramped houses - shameful shoe box homes - are being churned out all over the country, depriving households of the space they need to live comfortably and cohesively."

The institute wants consumers to get better information from estate agents and house builders.

For example, it is calling for floor area to be included in marketing material and floor plans to include furniture, so that people can get a clearer idea of the size of a property.

"Consumers are provided with very poor information when they are buying new homes," Mr Rich said.

"In the UK people buy homes based on the number of rooms. In the whole of the rest of Europe pretty much, and certainly North America, you know how many square metres you are buying when you buy it - and that's not available to UK consumers."

'Lack of affordability'

The Home Builders Federation, however, said that if new homes were built bigger, some people would be priced out of the market.

"If you increase standards you're going to increase costs," said head of planning Andrew Whitaker.

"That's going to mean houses are going to become more expensive and we're already suffering from a lack of affordability for young people and first-time buyers."

The Department for Communities and Local Government says it is "putting local communities themselves in control" of house building.

A spokesman said: "Under our planning reforms neighbourhoods will be able to design and vote on their own plans for the future of their areas, giving them the chance to exercise meaningful choice over the type and size of homes that are built, and giving developers the chance to benefit from a smoother process for getting planning permission by working with local people from the start."

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