Marijana No Comments

Could microflats solve London’s housing crisis?

It’s obvious to all that London is in the grip of a housing crisis. There’s a shortage of homes in a city where the population is growing with each passing year, forecast to soon hit 10 million people.

According to the Mayor of London’s housing report for 2018, over the last two decades the city’s population has risen by 26% and the number of jobs by 42%. But the supply of homes has grown by just 16%.

That supply and demand imbalance is pushing up house prices and rents beyond affordability for many Londoners. For many, it’s challenging enough to afford the rent each month. Buying a home is inconceivable.

But there may be a way to drastically increase the supply of housing in London: microflats. They’re seen elsewhere in the world, most notoriously Hong Kong, but now also New York. Could they be a solution to the London’s housing crisis?

There are minimum space standards for new homes in London, which have a mean average floor area of 87m2. A one single bedroom dwelling—the smallest possible home—must be a minimum of 37m2 in size.

Cutting the minimum requirement would be controversial and trigger concerns about living standards.

However, there are advantages, and modern, inventive design practices mean you shouldn’t have to compromise too much on space, storage, or quality of finish. Communal areas could also add a social element for those who need it.

Microflats wouldn’t be for everyone—the target market is clearly young professionals who want somewhere affordable and centrally-located for work and play. But the major advantage is this: smaller homes means more homes because microflats use land extremely efficiently.

Developments could increase the number of dwellings they are able to deliver, helping to ease London’s supply crisis. These properties would be cheaper than most, widening access to the property market in sought-after London locations, and acting as a stepping stone for first-time buyers who can eventually move on to a bigger home when they need to.

Some fear that greedy developers simply want to build cheap slum-style estates that maximise profits at the expense of residents’ quality of life by creating undignified “shoebox” homes.

A report by the Adam Smith Institute, a neoliberal thinktank, which made the case for microflats, countered such concerns.

“Millennials would rather pay for easy access to the city’s entertainment than for extra square meters,” concluded the paper, which was titled Size Doesn’t Matter.

“Hence, developers suggest building micro-flats with that in mind. Design is what distinguishes a modern purpose-built micro-housing scheme from something the micro-housing critics are afraid of.”

The property developer JLL said in a research report titled Micro Solutions to a Macro Problem that, because there is no common definition of a micro home, there are “misunderstandings between the key parties involved in housing delivery” which “slows productivity and potentially hinders the viability of proposed new housing schemes.”

JLL sought to categorise what it said were the three product types for microhomes—compact living, co-living, and shared living—with a catch-all definition: “The provision of homes that do not conform to current minimum space standards.”

“In a world where households are smaller, we are living longer, and urban living across the planet is getting less and less affordable, we should be far more open-minded about the full spectrum of housing solutions available,” said JLL’s Residential Research Director Nick Whitten.

“Small doesn’t have to be a bad thing. In fact, where more homes across the tenure spectrum can get built, planners and the industry have an obligation to take a more objective view of the complete offer.

“Bigger is not always better and space standards should not be used as a lazy proxy for good design.

“Modern technological innovations can allow us to deliver desirable Micro Living solutions in densely populated urban areas experiencing a severe imbalance between supply and demand.”

Source: Yahoo Finance UK

Marijana No Comments

Time to think outside the box if we are to solve the capital’s housing supply crisis

The housing crisis continues to haunt London. Warnings about the shortage of homes that are suitable, affordable, and desirable are now flooding in on a daily basis.

Some of the reasons for this problem are easier to put a finger on than others. Despite the headwinds of Brexit, the capital’s population continues to grow at a rapid pace, which is fuelling demand for more homes.

According to the latest draft London Plan from City Hall, nearly 11m people could call London their home by 2041. From today’s population of 8.9m, that is equivalent to an increase of nearly 1,600 people every week for the next 23 years.

In response to this growth, official targets for housing in London are expected to increase.

The London Plan proposes building around 65,000 homes each year, which is a 50 per cent uplift on today. But on average, London has delivered only 25,000 homes a year over the past decade or so. Closing that gap will be a major challenge.

So what can be done to try and deliver more flats and houses?

One option would be to nibble into bits of London’s greenbelt – particularly those parts which are not high quality. Think tank Centre for Cities estimated that nearly half a million homes could be built on just two per cent of the capital’s belt. But of course, politicians are wary of allowing this to happen, with concerns revolving around opposition from local voters, as well as the unfounded fear of urban sprawl.

Another option is to build more rail infrastructure. Crossrail 2 and an extended Bakerloo line could help make way for between 200,000 and 300,000 homes. But, frustratingly, both rail lines are years away from delivery.

On the supply side, embracing the use of off-site facilities to build houses could help reduce construction times and boost productivity. One study even suggests that net financial savings of seven per cent were possible.

Prefabrication – where structures are assembled in a factory before being transported to the site – could alleviate the supply backlog. But despite the rising popularity of prefabrication in countries like Germany, barriers in Britain still remain.

For example, new factories incur startup costs and require long production runs to make them profitable.

Another problem is the fact that insurers, lenders, and homeowners have historically been wary of new production techniques, which in turn slows down progress.

Having shared facilities for power, telecoms and water could help to reduce the time and cost of connecting homes into utilities. While this model has been adopted in parts of the US and New Zealand, UK regulators and service providers are concerned about the risks associated with these “dig-once” approaches – because of the difficulty deciding how costs are allocated, and who is to blame if something goes wrong.

In reality, it will take a combination of these approaches to get London’s housing supply up. And to have any impact, they would need to sit alongside greater powers and resources for London’s government. That would mean an end to one size fits all policies from Whitehall, devolution of taxes to our town halls, and probably a major public housing programme.

In turn, London could continue to be an economic hub that benefits the whole of the UK. And it might take the edge off one of the biggest challenges to the future prosperity of the city – giving everyone a place to call home.

Source: City A.M.