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The role of housebuilders in delivering new space standards

As the government’s new national housing space standard comes into play this month, the ongoing PR problem housebuilders continue to face via what is perceived to be shrinking property sizes and ‘rabbit hutch’ rooms, is very much alive and kicking.

This was proven in recent research conducted by us at Spacepro Contract where 76 per cent of recent and active homebuyers agreed that new homes are getting smaller.

The desire for more space in our homes is nothing new but the launch of the space standard is certainly a fresh move towards addressing it.

Detailing optional higher standards in relation to internal space and inclusive access, included are requirements for the gross internal area of new dwellings, at a defined level of occupancy, as well as floor areas and dimensions for key parts of the home, notably bedrooms, storage and floor to ceiling height.

However, with the standards being voluntary and subject to various ‘means testing’ to ensure their implementation is really necessary, many are questioning what impact they will really have, especially given the ever-increasing pressure on our national housebuilding programme.

Rather than repeating the case for our homes to be bigger, is there perhaps a more compelling and realistic argument centred on the design of our new homes and the smarter use of the space that already exists for the requirements of modern households?

41 per cent of homebuyers in our recent research cited room sizes as the most important internal factor when purchasing a property.

This is inherently connected to storage and flexible living provision with 76 per cent of homebuyers believing that the storage in new build homes could better meet the needs of modern households, 70 per cent agreeing that new build homes need storage solutions in all rooms and nearly three quarters finding it off putting when new build homes have rooms that lack storage facilities.

This is a key area that housebuilders could look to not only address but benefit from, particularly when you consider the fact that 66 per cent of homebuyers would pay more for a property with adequate storage space, 45 per cent up to £5,000 extra and one in 10 is prepared to pay up to £10,000.

What does this look like in practice?

Well, relatively small steps by housebuilders, like built-in storage in all bedrooms (as opposed to just the master), smart storage solutions built into the design of kitchens and bathrooms, or simple room dividers creating flexible living space could have a significant impact on the perception of both the space in our new homes as well as the thought that has gone into designing and building new homes for modern living.

The new space standard might be optional but when you consider the wider debate here about how we create modern homes fit for modern families, there really is much more to it than square footage.

Max Crosby-Browne is CEO of Spacepro Contract

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