Saturday, May 16, 2009

Ivory Towers Built To Top Industry Standards

The BBC have an extraordinary story this morning. There are 4.5million people on waiting lists for social housing and around 100,000 new build homes lying unsold and empty. Housing Associations are refusing to use a government fund to buy thousands of these to plug the gap because they are not of a high enough standard. Apparently, unlike private dwellings, social housing needs to be of a minimum size and built to a higher standard.

Is it just me or are you looking at this, scratching your head too? Sutton has the second worst housing stock in London, requiring £125million to bring all of their homes to a basic liveable standard. People across the country are living in social housing that may be built to a minimum size, but have tenants packed in like sardines with children sharing rooms with their parents. Enough damp and condensation is produced in many places to solve the drought problems in the south east and mould is prevalent, bringing on asthma and other such complaints. Yet a partial solution is being knocked back by those who cannot see the wood for the trees.

Millions of people in the UK have scrimped and saved for deposits, taken on bigger and bigger mortgages as the housing market exploded, in order to get a foot on the ladder. Many had to have a size of family to suit their circumstances and size of home, rather than the other way around. The social landlords that are eschewing the empty properties are peddling an ideal that is not available to those who can just about afford their own home and is not helping those who can't either. They need to get out of their reasonably sized, ivory towers, built to an excellent environmental standard natch, and join the real world. If they have the cash, buy the homes. Take advantage of the 10 year NHBC guarantee to put right any of the faults and snags.

1 comment:

Neil Garratt said...


I understand that part of the problem relates to room sizes and occupancy levels.

Private buyers tend to be happy with small rooms because they tend to under-occupy the space - they may want a spare bedroom, or maybe a bedroom as a study, etc. That means that the property will be occupied by fewer people than the bedroom count suggests meaning that smaller rooms are acceptable.

Whereas HA property tends to be allocated on a full occupancy basis, so bedrooms would need to accomodate 2 people as there's no entitlement to a bedroom each.

So a 3 bed house might contain 5-6 people under HA occupancy, but only 2-3 under private occupancy. That puts a lot more pressure on the reception space, and explains why accomodation that's adequate for private buyers is inadequate for HA.

Obviously the answer is to be more flexible on HA allocation levels, since the fundamental principle ought to be to get people into unoccupied property, but it's always easier said than done.

Personally, I find the micro-rooms in modern properties rather miserable. I wish we sold houses by m2 as using room count encourages micro rooms. eg: a dining room that's barely big enough for a table + 4 people, but it's a dining room on paper so that's a box ticked.

If it's about people per hectare, I'd rather go medium rise (3-5 storeys) with decent room sizes than remain low rise with micro rooms.

Here endeth today's rant :)