New homes developers are against new campaign for bigger room sizes
18:59 14 November 2014
New homes must have larger size bedrooms - but this will price people out of the market say specialists
A government campaign to introduce minimum space standards for new build houses and apartments met with concern locally that it will price buyers out of the market.
The government campaign aims to introduce minimum space standards for new build houses and apartments in a bid to stop the creating of more “shoe box homes.” But local new homes specialists are sceptical.
Richard Aldous, head of new homes for Savills’ eastern region, said that room sizes are worked out on how much it costs per square foot - so increase the measurements, and the price will go up too.
“In Norwich we are working on about £240 a foot so a standard two bedroom new home will be 660 sqft - so if the government stops the building of anything below say 760 sqft, it will basically put £20,000 on the price .
“So with building bigger units, you will price people out of the market, particularly first time buyers.”
Matthew Green, who builds new homes as well as converting period properties, agreed that forcing room sizes up would be detrimental to the property market.
“We are still building large new houses but we also build small houses and people buy what they can afford. We also build what people want to buy.”
Mr Green, of Greens Developments is currently converting a large period townhouse in Swaffham, Westgate House, London Street, which he is dividing into 10 individual dwellings.
One of these is a studio flat which is only 5ms x 5ms but he is planning to sell it for £55,000. “There is a real demand for something at this price however most of my properties are much bigger, at least three times that size,” he said. “I do build large properties but by building small, I can also offer more value for money - the dwellings in Swaffham for example will all have fully tiled bathrooms and integrated appliances in the kitchens all of a really high standard - often even with new homes now you have to pay extra for things.
“Basically it comes down to supply and demand.”
Tony Abel, managing director of Watton-based Abel Homes, said: “I have an empathy with what is being proposed. ‘Liveability’ is a concept which we talk about a lot, and having sufficient living space is a key part of that. We have been building homes with bigger living spaces and gardens for some years, because we believe that many people want to live in a home which does not feel cramped.
“However, it is important to say that this extra space comes at a cost. If you make homes bigger, you cannot build so many on each acre of land, and they consume more materials, and all of this is reflected in the end price. There are plenty of people who are prepared to pay that extra cost – but we should not forget that for many people, affordability is a major issue.
“For those who are struggling financially, is it better to be able to afford a smaller home than not to be able to afford a home at all? If we create rules about minimum house size, we need to be very careful that we don’t price people out of the market altogether. Certainly we should have planning laws that allow for lower housing density, and hence larger homes with more living space. But we have to recognise that not everybody can afford the extra cost that this entails, and so instinctively I feel that we should let the market provide what people want. One final point: if we do want new homes to be built at lower density, then we will have to accept that building them will eat up more land. That can be difficult to accept, but it is the reality. Joff Brooker, of north Norfolk-based Fleur Developments said: “We are not in the business of building small houses or flats for the very reason that people are probably signing up to this objection. Our clients generally expect a house with space to live and work and entertain.
“Where we design in three bedrooms, larger developers would probably fit four or five bedrooms for example. That said, it is the general market which will dictate whether there is a demand for such smaller homes. They are by the nature of them very economic to run and reduce the impact on the environment and land take so in some ways it is not a negative route to take. Having some outside space is an issue, being private or shared it is essential for a family orientated home.” And Marc Langdon, of Bidwells New Homes, said: “There are cost implications with larger homes which could have a negative impact on the market.” The Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) says it has convinced the government to introduce a space standard requirement across the whole of England to ensure that the millions of new homes being planned and built are fit for purpose, and able to meet the requirements of the people who live in them. It comes as the UK has the smallest new build homes in the whole of western Europe – smaller than countries including The Netherlands, which has less space and even higher population density levels. RIBA research has revealed Yorkshire for example, a county with one of the lowest population densities in England, has been building the smallest new build homes in England.
Introducing a minimum space standard has been a major campaign for RIBA and 2,850 people backed its call for the introduction of this standard during a consultation in 2013 – a high turnout for a response to a Department for Communities and Local Government technical consultation. Now RIBA says the government has pledged to introduce minimum space standards for all new build homes across England. Local authorities will be able to sign up to a national minimum space standards to ensure that any proposals for new housing in their area is required to meet this requirement, says RIBA.