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RIBA hits out at ‘shameful shoebox homes’

September 15th, 2011

RIBA has pointed the finger at the “shameful shoebox homes” produced by the UK’s top housebuilders in a new report released today.

The ‘Case for Space’ report, based on 80 sites across England, ranked housebuilders’ typical room sizes and found that the average new three bedroom home currently being built by the leading firms is around 8% smaller than the “basic recommended minimum size”.

The RIBA said this was leaving “thousands of people across the country short-changed” and revealed it had asked business leader Sir John Banham to lead major new inquiry into British homes.

But the scope and timing of the report was condemned by the Home Builders Federation, which said it “missed the point” and failed to address the current national debate about the planning system.

Using space standards from the London Plan, the RIBA’s report claimed that the floor area of the average new three bedroom home is only 92% of the recommended minimum size “therefore missing the space equivalent to a single bedroom which could comfortably accommodate a single bed, bedside table, wardrobe, desk and chair.”

RIBA chief executive Harry Rich said: “Our homes should be places that enhance our lives and well-being.  However, as our new research confirms, thousands of cramped houses – shameful shoe box homes – are being churned out all over the country, depriving households of the space they need to live comfortably and cohesively.”

Rich insisted it was the right time to address the issue, despite the current focus on housing supply.

“In a rush to build quickly and cheaply we risk storing up unnecessary problems for the future,” he said. “There does not need to be any contradiction between building or refurbishing enough homes and making sure that they are of the highest quality.”

Mayor of London Boris Johnson also signalled his backing.

He said: “In London we want to see new developments that enrich the capital’s architectural vernacular and that will be admired and cherished for decades to come…it is vital that we build more homes to boost the economy, but as RIBA’s campaign rightly points out, we must not compromise on quality and design to do so.”

However, the HBF said the report was over-simplistic by failing to address issues such as land supply, economic viability, regional variations and – crucially – the planning system.

HBF Executive Chairman, Stewart Baseley said: “This report is a disappointing missed opportunity. We’ll happily work with RIBA and others but if they are serious about the future of housing in this country they must support the proposed National Planning Policy Framework and ensure that they fully understand the pressures on land and viability that home builders face every day.

“Even with these constraints developers are building the homes that people can afford, that this country desperately needs and providing billions of pounds of investment in infrastructure and the environment.”

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