Why Britain has the nastiest new homes in Europe

Housebuilders are building the smallest, meanest properties they can get away with. That needs to be fixed – by regulation if necessary.

I wrote in last week's magazine aboutthe myth of tiny UK houses.Most people think that the average size of a UK home is smaller than the average size of any other European home. It isn't. The simple truth is that UK houses are on average roughly the same size as houses everywhere else in Europe around 95 square metres.

That doesn't mean that we don't have a problem. We do: our new houses are genuinely tiny. New houses built in the private sector average a mean 76 square metres. The question is, why?

Matthew Lynn puts it down to planning.I'm not so sure on that if you read this old blog post, you will see that there isn't nearly as much of a problem with planning as most people think London is awash with new developments and there are some 400,000 as yet unbuilt houses in the UK with full planning permission.

So, if that's not the problem, what is? One answer from the New Home Blog is thatthe UK has no minimum build standards for private homes. We have a long history of imposing size requirements or at least firm suggestions on housebuilders (you can read the full history inthis remarkably comprehensive reportwritten for the Greater London Authority a few years ago) but at the moment, outside the London guidelines at least, anything that bumps up your margins, and that you can disguise successfully in a show home, goes.

This isn't the case elsewhere many other European countries set minimum sizes with either regulation or via fiscal incentives. The same is true invarious municipalities in the US.

And it makes sense. Tiny houses aren't good for anyone except housebuilders. The Royal Institute of British Architects likes the idea,and so does the National Housing Federation.

Clearly the House Builders Federation (HBF) doesn't fancy it so much given the amount people can afford to pay for houses it is more likely to hit their margins than to hit end prices. But their stated reason for rejecting it that they only build what the market demands really doesn't stack up.

As the report I mentioned above notes "there seems to be a mis-match between homebuyers' preferences and what the market is providing. Homebuyers express a preference for houses rather than flats, more bedrooms and larger rooms for living and storage." Given all this I suspect that minimum living space standards might be worth more discussion than they get at the moment.

Recommended

With the £1bn “Future Fund”, maybe the state can pick winners after all
UK Economy

With the £1bn “Future Fund”, maybe the state can pick winners after all

Through the Future Fund, the UK government now has lots of stakes in small, start-up, high-growth companies. Time will tell whether that was wise, say…
7 Mar 2021
Rishi Sunak’s recovery budget may look good but it is based on stealthy tax rises
Budget

Rishi Sunak’s recovery budget may look good but it is based on stealthy tax rises

The chancellor outlined his vision of the post-Covid-19 economy this week. Merryn Somerset Webb and John Stepek look at what it means for your money.
5 Mar 2021
The inflation scare is far from over, warns the Bank of England
UK Economy

The inflation scare is far from over, warns the Bank of England

The Bank of England's chief economist has warned that UK consumer price inflation will soon spike as the economy reopens, calling it a “tiger” that co…
5 Mar 2021
Houses for sale for around £600,000
Houses for sale

Houses for sale for around £600,000

From a Grade II-listed, 15th-century house in the medieval part of Bury St Edmunds to a top-floor apartment in a period building in London’s Queen’s P…
5 Mar 2021

Most Popular

A beginner’s guide to bitcoin: where to store your bitcoins
Bitcoin

A beginner’s guide to bitcoin: where to store your bitcoins

Once you've got hold of some bitcoins, you need somewhere secure to keep them. Dominic Frisby outlines some of the best options, from exchanges to col…
4 Mar 2021
A beginner’s guide to bitcoin: the technical genius behind bitcoin and the blockchain – and how it all works
Bitcoin

A beginner’s guide to bitcoin: the technical genius behind bitcoin and the blockchain – and how it all works

In the second in his series on bitcoin, Dominic Frisby looks at the blockchain – bitcoin’s unique underlying architecture – and what makes it and the …
2 Mar 2021
The great rotation is firmly underway – what does it mean for you?
Stockmarkets

The great rotation is firmly underway – what does it mean for you?

As investors move away from “jam tomorrow” stocks and back into “old economy” stocks that should benefit from the post-pandemic recovery, the tech-hea…
5 Mar 2021