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Could micro-homes help fix the housing crisis?

Could micro-homes help fix the housing crisis?

The news that a health-tank has suggested that micro-homes could fix the ever-growing housing problem in London, and as such minimum space requirements should be reconsidered, will probably come as music to developers’ ears.

For some time it seems like the size of rental accommodation has been squeezed smaller and smaller in order to fit more units into new build developments, particularly in city centre markets where space is a premium and demand is high.

Britain's leading free market neoliberal think tank, the Adam Smith Institute, has asked the Greater London Authority (GLA) to review current laws surrounding minimum space in apartments, claiming that shrinking homes could give greater choice for young people in London.

The report, authored by urban policy researcher Vera Kichanova, points out that with some 3.5 million Londoners expected to be living in rented housing by 2025 and average house prices in the capital now five times higher than 50 years ago, there is a lack of affordable housing stock in London which is only going to worsen.

With this in mind, the Adam Smith Institute believes that if the minimum space requirements were relaxed it could lead to ‘a new wave of innovative development’; giving young people in London the ability to live centrally in a private space.

Adam Smith Institute’s head of research Matthew Lesh said: “Small, but perfectly formed micro-homes would expand choice for young Londoners. There are many who would rather live close to the city centre, in a building full of amenities such as game rooms and co-working spaces, rather than spending hours commuting every day,”

“London’s housing crisis is not just an economic problem, hurting growth because people cannot live where they would be most productive, it is also having very real and serious political ramifications. The lack of housing affordability is leading many to lose faith in the entire free market system. Housing policy reform is an urgent priority, and while micro-housing is no substitute for fundamental planning reform, it is an important first step.”

However many people believe that micro-homes are a danger to human health. Just larger than two car parking spaces, micro-homes are already big business in cities like Hong Kong, and even New York where popular micro-apartment developer Ollie has already benefited from laws surrounding floor space being relaxed.

It is thought that living in cramped conditions for a long period of time could have serious physical and mental health ramifications, particularly for families who may find themselves living in overcrowded conditions with children who require space to grow.

Although micro-homes are certainly a solution for young professional renters in the short-term, with many renters happy to live in minimal and funky micro-homes from popular developers, the concern is that as soon as laws are slackened this will spread into the mainstream.

Whether micro-homes will have to become the norm around the world is yet to be seen, but we hope that going forward developers will think carefully about the size of the homes they build, with tenants’ futures in mind.

You can read more about micro-homes in Edition 25 of Global Property Scene here

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