Size matters: why we need more average-sized homes

The latest statistics suggest that we either build very large or very small homes, when most people need something in between.

It is often said that there is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ solution to the housing crisis. In fact, more variation in size is exactly what the housing market needs.

The location, type and size of new homes has changed considerably since the recession, according to a recent analysis by Savills. Development has shifted from high-density flats in northern cities to family homes in the South and Midlands.

In 2006/07 one and two bed flats accounted for 44% of all private new homes. They now account for just 22%, a figure which would be would be lower if London were excluded. Meanwhile, the proportion of new homes that are houses with three or more bedrooms has risen from 50% to 70%.

“The detached home continues its resurgence, with our figures showing that housebuilders are building the highest number of detached properties for over a decade, with semi-detached homes also at their highest level in more than 20 years,” said NHBC Chief Executive Mike Quinton.

These trends indicate that new build homes are not as small as regularly suggested. The average size of a new build home in 2015 was 91m2, just 1m2 smaller than the average second hand home. The problem is the distribution of sizes.

We are building lots of small flats and a sizeable number of large houses but not enough average sized homes, the Savills analysis suggests.

“This highlights a potential issue with the Government focus on overall supply levels,” the analysis said. “Chasing headline numbers at the expense of quality and design risks a return to some of the negative aspects of the pre-recession development market.

“It also ignores the value that can be created via appropriate placemaking. Therefore, alongside the focus on increasing supply, we also need to ensure that there is sufficient land supply in the places that need new homes the most. Plans for this land need to have the appropriate mix of homes alongside the required infrastructure, amenities and services.”

According to Kush Rawal, Sales and Marketing Director at Thames Valley Housing, housebuilders should be challenging the conventional models for first time buyers. “Although the emphasis has long been on apartments, most people, if given the option, would prefer their own front door and more private space,” said Rawal.

“Some housebuilders are beginning to introduce such models, but more needs to be done in investigating viable options for homes that combine the benefits of a house with efficient use of land,” Rawal continued. “We also need to review the standard apartment designs, which have remained similar for many years despite changes in the way people live.

“This could include looking at options for more flexible use of space, such as retractable walls/dividers between certain parts of the home, allowing families to use the space differently as their needs change over time.”

While the emphasis remains on supply, price and infrastructure, can the size of homes be squeezed onto politicians’ priority lists? Watch this space…

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