RIBA’s housing lead has dubbed the ability of new housing developments that feature communal space and very small living units to skirt planning rules a “scandal”.
Julia Park, who is interim chair of the institute’s housing group, told a London Assembly Housing Committee session on space standards that it was “bonkers” that some housing types did not need to conform to the same accessibility and space standards as other buildings such as prisons.
The discussion was called to investigate whether the capital’s space standards, now adopted nationally, were a brake on the delivery of new homes and whether smaller homes would be cheaper to develop.
Park saved her strongest concerns for the growth of student-housing style micro homes.
“They’re a specific part of the private rental sector, and they’re smaller – below the space standards typically,” she said.
“They get treated as ‘sui generis’ in the planning process, which means we don’t have a proper debate. It’s bonkers…”
Toby Lloyd, policy director at housing charity Shelter, said market pressures – particularly in relation to land values – would immediately absorb any savings from the development of smaller homes.
“People assume that if you make homes smaller it will make them cheaper, but it doesn’t,” he said.
“All it means is that the land-owner can extract more value from the development process.”