Trends

ARE MICRO FLATS THE FUTURE?

Micro flats are increasingly being talked about as one of the multiple solutions needed to address housing shortages up and down the country.

With the UK being one of the most densely populated countries in Europe, UK homes are among the smallest in Europe.

Increasingly, developers are looking to provide even smaller housing units – micro flats – as a way to boost housing production and help the government and local authorities meet their ambitious targets for new housing over the coming years.  

London Mayor Sadiq Khan seems onboard with the idea of micro flats. City Hall is providing £25 million to niche developer Pocket Living which has the goal of 1,000 affordable homes by 2021.

Property regeneration company U+i wants to persuade London councils to authorise building of 19sq m “compact living flats”  with communal space on brown field sites. The GLA’s recommended minimum size for small units is 37sq m.

Inspired Homes has micro flats on the market in various parts of the south including Clapham, Croydon, Chelmsford, Crawley and Sutton. At its development in Luton one bed flats cost from £155,000.

Pocket Living has micro flats in Deptford and Ealing. The Ealing units are priced from £297,000.

The benefits of micro flats are self-evident.  Lower building costs for smaller units should hold down prices and make purchase costs more affordable.

Smaller units should mean more units and a big dent in government and local authority targets for new homes.

Micro units should be easier and cheaper for their owners to run in terms of overheads and bills

One obvious concern is that smaller units, with their lack of space, may not be popular with the public – although where communal facilities are provided that should improve the position, and communal living may be seen as an upgrade on traditional domestic lifestyles for certain age or economic groups.

Perhaps the biggest concern is that micro units will be micro in size but not micro in price. The micro units in Ealing available from Inspired Homes and priced at £297,000 do not seem especially affordable, even for London.

The fundamental objective of developers is to make a profit and there is every chance that developers will seek to boost profits by cutting on size but cutting less on price.

A bit like small bottles of water in a convenience store, we may end up with the inexplicable position where a small bottle is pretty much the same price as a large bottle.

Where there are communal facilities, there is the danger that the cost of such “services” will add to running costs, undermining the fundamental goal of improving affordability.

However, micro flats are very much in their infancy. Time will tell whether there is an appetite for them from would be homeowners.

If they are well-designed, fairly priced and genuinely affordable, there is every reason to expect demand to grow and supply to increase.

They should not be condemned out of hand and automatically branded as some form of inferior, temporary or second class accommodation.

If smaller units can help to solve the housing problems of local authorities, they should give developers the chance to provide innovative, high quality micro units and ease up on their signatory control freakery.

As to the appropriate minimum size, the market will ultimately decide. If for instance the 37sq m units being proposed by U+i are too small for buyers, they will vote with their feet and the market will provide bigger units.

Micro flats are definitely part of the solution to the much talked about housing deficit; the sooner backward thinking councils realise that the better. 

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Dalton Barrett
Rebel Property Coach

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