Cramped UK homes are smallest in Western Europe

Developers are failing to meet guidelines on space requirements

The UK has the smallest homes in Western Europe, as developers undershoot guidelines on space requirements. 

The average newly built one-bedroom home is now just the same size as an Underground carriage.

This cramped reality amounts to just 46 square metres, and falls 4 square metres short of the recommended minimum, according to research by the Royal Institute of British Architects (Riba).

The missing 4 square metres is enough room for a single bed, bedside table and dressing table with stool.

New three-bedroom homes are squeezed even further, with the average 8 square metres short of minimum space requirements. The lost space is enough for a single bedroom with furniture.

New homes in the UK are now 15% smaller than in Ireland and 80% smaller than Denmark.

It’s of little surprise that shrinking new-build homes are now a last resort for around a third of buyers, according to Riba’s research.

Unlike other parts of the world, there are no compulsory standards governing the size of new homes in England and Wales. And there is only basic guidance relating to the size and number of windows. 

Households are now squeezed into ever smaller properties, as the space of a new home is 9 square metres less than the overall average property size, which includes older homes.

"The way that UK developers are currently building will soon render new build homes as no more than brick and tile-built kennels lined up in bland rows to house the masses," commented Russell Quirk, founder of online estate agent eMoov.co.uk.   

Nearly half of homeowners in the UK say they can’t fit all of their furniture or move furniture around into different layouts in their home.

But light and space are “basic needs” – not luxuries – that affect health, happiness and wellbeing, argues Riba.

The institute is calling on the Government to implement national minimum standards on space and natural light in its upcoming review of housing standards in England. 

It warns that decisions could result in the current ‘meagre housing standards’ being reduced or even abolished.

Riba president Angela Brady said: “The country is in the grip of the worst housing crisis in decades and there is an urgent need to provide more affordable, quality homes. In their rush to build the Government must avoid the temptation to reduce current standards and give the go-ahead for builders to produce another generation of poor quality homes, without adequate space and natural light.”

Television presenter Kevin McCloud is supporting the campaign, saying: “This isn't rocket science. We all instinctively respond to the opportunity for a view, a connection with the outdoors, fresh air, light and space.

“A return to minimum space standards is crucial for the health and wellbeing of the people who will be living in new build homes."

The research comes after calls for more bungalow building from the think-tank Policy Exchange.