UK Adopts Home-Size Minimums
New homes in the UK will be less cramped under newly approved minimum space standards.
The long-awaited standards, given Royal Assent on Thursday (March 26), are the “biggest change in housing standards in a generation,” according to the Architects’ Journal.
The technical space standards—which are included in the Deregulation Bill 2015—apply to every new home and dictate a minimum size dependent on the number of bedrooms and occupants.
UK has the smallest homes in Western Europe, according to reports. Historically, builders in the country have had limited guidance about the size of new homes.
In passing the legislation, the government seeks to create a simple, “streamlined system for new housing in order to bring forward much-needed new homes,” according to a statement by Communities Secretary Eric Pickles.
The space standards are closely based on the existing London Housing Standards, officials say.
Seeking a Space Solution
The Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) estimates the average new home in the UK has 4.8 rooms and is 76 square meters (about 818 square feet), compared to 115 square meters (around 1,238 square feet) in Holland and 137 square meters (1,474 square feet) in Denmark.
(According to the latest U.S. Census Bureau figures, the average new single-family home size in the U.S. is more than 2,500 square feet.)
The architects' group also reported that about 69 percent of people moving into new homes in the UK said there wasn’t enough space for their possessions; 60 percent of people who said they would not buy a new home in the country claimed that room size was a major factor.
In 2013, the group launched a campaign called HomeWise to call on government officials for change.
Under the new regulations, a new three-bedroom home for five people must be at least 99 square meters (958 square feet) for a three-story structure, according to a chart highlighting the new measurements.
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With the new law, the government seeks to create a simple “streamlined system for new housing in order to bring forward much-needed new homes,” said Communities Secretary Eric Pickles.
UK’s new space standards also call for two-bedroom homes to have at least one double-occupancy bedroom and a minimum floor-to-ceiling height, among other provisions.
Some feel, however, that the regulations do not go far enough.
A Local ‘Loophole’
Architects' Journal reports that the housing standards provide local authorities with a “loophole” to opt out of the standards.
“The requirements can only be applied where there is a local plan in place and where the viability of the development would not be compromised by adopting the standards,” the report said.
However, officials advise that local planning authorities are to “consider existing plan policies on technical housing standards and requirements and update them as appropriate.”
Further, the government threatens to bring forward mandatory legislation “[i]f, in the light of experience in implementing this policy statement, the government considers that it is not being accorded sufficient weight with planning authorities.”
The new requirements go into effect in October.