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CABE - New homes are too small for everyday life, say residents

New homes do not provide enough space for everyday activities such as preparing food easily, having friends round for dinner, or even recycling.

CABE conducted the research with the owners of 2,500 private new homes, to explore views on the adequacy of internal space.

Forty four per cent of all households surveyed say they do not have enough space for small children to play safely in the kitchen while meals are being prepared, and 37 per cent say they or their children do not have enough space to entertain guests privately.

Seventy two per cent do not have enough space for the three small bins required to recycle properly; and 35 per cent do not have the kitchen space for basic cooking appliances such as a toaster or a microwave. Fifty seven per cent do not have enough storage, and 47 per cent cannot accommodate all the furniture they have, or would like to have.

The research points to lower-income households suffering from more of the problems associated with a lack of space. Ninety per cent of the householders surveyed had a spare bedroom, and so the situation is worse for those in fully occupied properties.

Housebuilders often protest that people won’t be able to afford houses with more space. In fact, the barrier is the profit margin that publicly limited companies feel obliged to make. By building the smallest homes in Europe, they’re not giving people the choice.  Homebuyers deserve well designed homes that allow them to choose how they live.

Richard Simmons, CABE chief executive, says the research brings into question the argument that the market will meet the demands of people living in private housing developments. 'We need local planning authorities to ensure much higher space standards before giving developments the go-ahead.'

CABE also recommends that private housebuilders and estate agents should provide better information for buyers about space, using net floor area rather than the number of rooms. The Homes and Communities Agency should seize the opportunity to produce new cross agency standards for space.

The findings have been published in CABE's Space in new homes: what residents think. All of the residents surveyed lived in homes built between 2003 and 2006, in London or within one hour's travel distance from London. The research was jointly commissioned from HATC by CABE and English Partnerships with RIBA.

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