Space standard for new homes sought

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Published: Thursday 13th November 2014 by The News Editor

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A space standard for new homes in England could save developers and councils £114 million a year, the communities minister has said.

But others have raised concerns that the measures are likely to make buying a house more difficult for the less well-off.

Stephen Williams said that simplification of building rules and regulations, as well as giving councils the option to impose a minimum space standard for homes, would remove “red tape” and save money.

He said: “The further reforms we plan to make would slash the mass of unnecessary rules and regulations down to just five core housebuilding standards, freeing developers from unnecessary red tape and letting them get on with the real job of building the right homes.

“As part of this, councils and communities will be able to choose if they would like to introduce new space standards to influence the size of new homes in their local area if this is right for them.

“By doing this, we could save developers and councils as much as £114 million a year, while making homes safer, more accessible to older and disabled people and more sustainable.”

Some 80% of respondents supported minimum space standards in a government consultation carried out earlier this year.

The standards would cover bedroom sizes, ceiling heights and storage space.

But groups representing builders said that space standards were likely to make building new houses more expensive, which could exacerbate the housing crisis.

Steve Turner, spokesman for the House Builder’s Federation, said: “Specifying the size of homes reduces choice for home buyers which could impact on the affordability of new homes and in particular penalise those on lower budgets and first time buyers.

“There is no evidence to support the introduction of space standards, and surveys show that the people who actually buy the homes the industry builds – as opposed to industry commentators and critics – are overwhelmingly happy with the homes they buy.”

The decision over whether or not to enforce space standards would be taken by local authorities, who would have to require builders of new homes in their areas to meet them.

Britain currently has Western Europe’s smallest homes.

The average new build home is 76 square metres.

London already has minimum space standards for housing, but the government is expected to roll them out across the UK.

Andrew Forth, policy and public affairs manager for the Royal Institute of British Architecture, said that new measures expected to be introduced by the government could also make people feel happier about new houses being built.

“It addresses the concerns that new homes are cramped and there is no room for furniture, for children to do their homework,” he said.

“The evidence is pretty clear that it will make it much easier to live in these houses.

“One of the things we think it will do is help create a more positive impression of new housing.”

The measures could also encourage older people living in large houses to downsize, freeing up space for big families.

RIBA has been campaigning for more space in housing since September 2011.

RIBA President Stephen Hodder said: “We are delighted that the Government has recognised the urgent need to stem the flow of poor quality housing that is blighting the UK by introducing a standard.

“The battle to shed our position as building the smallest homes in Western Europe is not over.

“RIBA urges all locally accountable councillors to listen to their electorate and introduce a minimum space standard in their area.”

A spokesman for the Department of Communities and Local Government said it would announce the outcome of the consultation “in due course”.

Published: Thursday 13th November 2014 by The News Editor

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