Architects say new houses are 'shameful shoebox homes'


Harry Rich, of Riba, says house buyers are being left with no choice

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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'

Start Quote

Consumers are provided with very poor information when they are buying new homes”

End Quote Harry Rich Chief executive, Riba

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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  • rate this

    Comment number 753.

    Floor areas would be useful, legal minimums for definitions too.
    EG Double bedroom must be at least 10m2. A qualifier like generous or spacious 150% of minimum.
    Gardens should have the same floor area as the house EG GF area + 1F area.
    Also much more emphasis on orientation - EG more windows south facing, less north facing.
    Acoustic insulation as well as thermal insulation reported too.

  • rate this

    Comment number 752.

    The only "Supply and Demand" in the UK housing market is about money NOT houses.

    Bankers demand all you joint income in exchange they force you into servitude for life in a kennel! (All aided and abetted by Mervyn King!)

    House prices MUST fall for the UK to recover, and fall by 50%!

  • rate this

    Comment number 751.

    Thatcher abolished the old Parker Morris standards so her Tory friends could steal more from the people and provide less.

    Been looking, out of curiosity, for any new house that can take a 6ft snooker table (14ft x 11ft) as a second reception/dining room - alas none can at any price nor can they take a 8ft x 4ft Victorian dining table and six Victorian chairs.

    Rabbit hutches are only for rabbits!

  • rate this

    Comment number 750.

    Rebecca Riot 740
    Didn't take long for a woman to beat me over the head - as I fully expected.
    Dear Rebecca the truth hurts it's you ladies that insist on so many extras which 1st time buyers can well do without until they have earnt a bit of spare cash instead of paying off a huge mortgage. That's part of the fun when you are newly married and I have to this day some beautiful antique furniture!

  • rate this

    Comment number 749.

    721.Rebecca Riot
    The share purchase scheme in Docklands is well worth a look at. You part own it, the housing assoc owns the rest. But the flats are still cupboardish, just about OK for a starter & if their are two of you to stump up the cash.
    2 points.

    1. No-one is forced to buy the properties.
    2. With the Docklands you are paying for the location also.

  • rate this

    Comment number 748.


    'Lords and servants'

    Quite right. The French overthrew their aristocracy and therefore have a very different set up to us. Those old landed families still own most of Britain. HRH owns most of Corwall plus Dartmoor Prison, paying him a huge rent

    If the Chartist's had succeeded there would be a tricolour flying over England not a Union Jack. The Queen disappeared into history

  • rate this

    Comment number 747.

    Reminds me of that old song....Little boxes. Little boxes. Littles boxes made of ticky-tacky. Little boxes. Littles boxes and they all just look the same...
    Who sang it? I just can't remember but it sure was/is true!

  • rate this

    Comment number 746.

    Please remember that all new houses have to be planning passed. So if your local builder is putting up "hutches" a local government office has approved it. Make sure that you look in the correct place for the culprits, smaller houses= more houses per plot, more houses means more revenue centres for Councils. Just love em, then they blame the builder.

  • rate this

    Comment number 745.

    Sooty 739
    You are so right Mate and what about walk in larders instead of a kitchen full of useless eye level cupboards where one forgets the least used contents. My dear late cousin had her kitchen remodelled three times (money no object!) and whenever I stayed with her I could never find the ordinary everyday items which are on full view in our larder/pantry shelves with an overhead light.

  • rate this

    Comment number 744.

    Interesting to note that today Barratt announced a 'year of recovery' with underlying profit of £42 million - Against a background of falling sales, falling prices and the difficulties in gaining mortgages. How have they managed that? Profits are high and quality is low because there simply isn't enough supply. Without an excess of supply there isn't any competition. More housing please!

  • rate this

    Comment number 743.

    The extorionate price of land with planning permission drives this !cram as many houses in as possible! mentality. We seem to be the only country in the world that doesn't routinely use floor area and land area in property desriptions. We are obsessed with the number of bedrooms, why? It has no relation to house size, in most properties the 3rd/4th bedroom isn't a bedroom, they are box rooms.

  • rate this

    Comment number 742.

    "Rubbish, we have plenty of land. The problem we have is that we have decided to populate just 1% of available land through silly planning regulations"

    No the problem is 90% of the land is owned by 10% of the people.

    Britain is a class apartheid. Unlike the rest of Europe it never threw it's aristocracy out during the last century so it's still stuck in the days of lords and servants.

  • rate this

    Comment number 741.

    Still on housing I see, this time about the quality + size of houses. The Whole issue is not really about how many and what types of houses we 'need'. Rather it is about the building industry raking in the millions, providing jobs and most importantly getting more people to buy them so the banks can also rake in 'their' share - that's if they will give u a loan. Weird way to kick start economy:(

  • rate this

    Comment number 740.

    Billy the Bull

    You got it wrong mate.

    It is not the fault of women, and because the spivs and speculators trousering unearned profits, driving up the house prices, are all men. Usually big fat white ones.

    If you want to live in a shed cooking over a camping stove, that's up to you, but most folks don't. The fussiest folk I know are all blokes. They want their mummy's comforts!

  • rate this

    Comment number 739.

    What ever happened to attics?

    The house I grew up in, terraced, had 2 largish bedrooms and an attic. The attic could easily have been made into 2 more large bedrooms (3 kid sized). If land is the issue, tack a metre or so more onto the height and make another storey.

    If I wanted a reasonable new build house, I'd have to get a 3 bedroom... 1 master bedroom, 1 spare & a little office/hobby room!

  • rate this

    Comment number 738.

    This is the tip of the iceberg. Ceilings are often lower than the recommended height of eight feet; massive old-fashioned radiators are fitted that take up most of the available wall space, and compact systems such as warm air that uses only very small vents ('registers') are unavailable even at the buyer's expense; and much more. Why do we permit the building of the sink estates of the future?

  • rate this

    Comment number 737.

    Just asking for mental health problems. You can't even swing the cat.

  • rate this

    Comment number 736.

    Everything is much clearer in France. Property is classified according to the number of residential rooms (a 2 bedroom apartment is a 3 room apartment). The area of floor is given in square metres (much to visualise 60 sq metres than 600 sq ft). Bedrooms are large enough for a standard double with side tables plus wall to ceiling storage. The WC is always a small inner room / closet not bathroom

  • rate this

    Comment number 735.

    I know that this post is going to make some women really grumpy but I have the courage to say that house price inflation is all womens' fault. We men can make do with a log cabin but the women have to have all the latest fitted kitchens, bathrooms and bedrooms plus carpeting throughout and even ready made gardens. In our first house we had none of the above and lived on bare boards for 18 months!

  • rate this

    Comment number 734.

    Overpopulation is not the problem! It is overconcentration of persons in one small corner of England. London is like state in itself, while there are tracts of empty land stretching to Scotland & to Wales. Where I live, my neighbour is half mile away and the house prices are fairly affordable. But local wages are terrible. If you want to live here then your income needs to come from elsewhere,


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