Comically dubbed “Rabbit Hutch Homes”, micro-homes in the UK have been on the rise since Permitted Development Rights allowed developers to bypass the national minimum space standards. Research conducted by the Intergenerational Foundation showed that the number of new micro-homes developed between 2013 and 2018 increased from in 2,139 to 9,605.
This increase was due to a policy change back in 2013. Policy makers such as Boris Johnson, hoped that micro-homes would help improve the housing crisis. They used a shortcut to permit the conversion of dis-used commercial buildings into residential housing with almost automatic planning consent irrespective of their size or amenity. It meant that homes could be created below the 37m2 minimum national space standards for a 1-person, 1-bedroom home with a shower.
The UK can now claim the title of having the smallest and second smallest homes across the whole of Europe.
Affordable homes or quick profits?
Micro-homes do offer an alternative route to homeownership. With CDs and DVDs quickly becoming redundant within the newer generation, they tend to pack a little bit lighter too, so storage space is less of a requirement.
“Millennials who have been priced out of larger properties and forced to rent can see light at the end of the tunnel,” said Martin Skinner, CEO of Inspired Asset Management and Inspired Homes. “Today’s affordable new home may be smaller, but it’s smarter and it’s one they can call their own. This approach represents an easy solution to what has become a major problem for the London property industry.”
Although Donny Dorling, who provided the foreword for the report, said: “We need to call time on quick-profit-seeking speculative developments of rabbit hutch homes”.
He added, “to ensure that developers are made to abide by the Nationally Described Space Standard, in order to better protect younger and future generations.”
Research from Which? has also suggested that unlike normal houses, micro-homes may be less likely to grow in value. Their analysis showed that properties with floor space of between 50 and 120 sqm had the best price growth, whereas homes smaller than the national minimum space standards had a price growth of 6.9%, compared with 8.7% for homes larger.
Author of the report Colin Wiles stated that micro-homes are not the answer to the housing crisis. They only represent a short-term reaction to much wider problems in the housing market. They recommend that the government scrap office-to-residential Permitted Development Rights, so that any new homes built are affordable and decent.