New British homes are smallest in Europe

September 12th, 2008 - 12:39 pm ICT by IANS  

London, Sep 12 (IANS) Britain is building the most cramped housing in Europe in a phenomenon dubbed “rabbit hutch”, with every country in western Europe, from Ireland to Italy, providing bigger new homes.”The cause is simple and shocking,” said Ellis Woodman, the curator behind the British pavilion at the Venice Architecture Biennale, which examines why the quality of British housing has fallen behind the rest of Europe, The Guardian reported.

“England and Wales are the only parts of Europe where house-building is unregulated by legally binding minimum space standards,” he said.

“That oversight is all too indicative of the failure of successive British governments to ensure that we are well housed.”

Homes in Britain have the smallest rooms and old dwellings are not much bigger, with the average floor space almost a quarter smaller than in Denmark, which boasts western Europe’s most spacious living accommodation.

Among the smallest homes on the market are Barratt Homes’ “Manhattan pods” in Harlow, Essex, which have just 34 sq metres of space and a living room measuring three metres by 3.6 metres.

A survey by the housing charity Shelter of 500 families living in overcrowded conditions revealed that 86 percent felt someone in their family was suffering from depression, anxiety or stress and 71 percent said overcrowding had a negative impact on their health.

“I haven’t got any room for anything,” said Sonia Donovan, a 23-year-old pregnant single mother who lives in a one-bedroom council flat in Plymouth.

“In my bedroom I’ve got my bed, my son’s bed, cupboards and baby’s cot. It causes a lot of stress in a small property, especially with my small son and another one on the way. I’m depressed and I feel homeless.”

In November, London mayor Boris Johnson will propose the reintroduction of minimum space standards on all publicly-funded housing in the capital, with one-bedroom flats having to be no smaller than 50 sq metres and three-bedroom homes a minimum 74 sq metres.

Johnson said in the summer that it was “shameful that new buildings in London have some of the smallest rooms in Europe”.

In a separate move aimed at freeing up more space in Britain’s homes, the government said yesterday that it would waive planning procedures for loft conversions of fewer than 50 cubic metres and single-storey extensions no more than three metres deep.

House builders have warned that space standards could increase costs and slow down house building, which is already falling short of government targets.

“We can’t increase the footprint of a home without increasing the land we need to buy and develop,” said Steve Turner, a spokesman for the Home Builders’ Federation.

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