EDITOR'S LETTERMerryn Somerset Webb
Our shrinking houses
How small is your house? My guess is you think it is too small. You probably also think it is very small relative to the houses people in other countries live in. If it’s a new-build, you’re probably right.
As Matthew Lynn notes, strict planning laws combined with some other factors (the difficulty developers have in financing infrastructure, for example) mean our new houses are among the smallest in the world, at an average of 76 sq m (818 sq ft). In Ireland, it’s 88 sq m. Go to Spain, and it’s 97 sq m. Cross to Denmark and you’ll get an airy 137 sq m.
At first glance you will see another manifestation of the UK’s great housing crisis. But it is more complicated than that. The size of households in the UK is falling fast. In 1961, an average of 3.1 people lived in every UK house. By last year, with 29% of houses occupied by singletons and 28% by child-free couples, that had fallen to just 2.3 people.
What’s more, the average UK house is clearly bigger than the average new-build. If you use the number Matthew gives for this – 95.7 sq m – things suddenly don’t look so bad: everyone’s got 41.6 sq m of space each.
Still, what we need are numbers we can compare across countries to see just how badly off we are.
• Read the full editor’s letter here: Our shrinking houses