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Britain's 'shoe-box' houses among smallest in Europe

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Britain’s homes are among the most cramped in Europe, with more than half falling foul of recommended space standards according to a new study

Researchers at the University of Cambridge analysed data from more than 16,000 homes throughout England and found that the majority did not meet the space standards outlined in the London Housing Design Guide.

The study uncovered that 55 per cent of houses in England were considered too small – though, it was revealed, due to low occupation rates only 21 per cent of households have a shortage of internal space.

New-build properties in the UK were found to be just 76m² in size on average, compared to 87.7m² in Ireland, 109.2m² in Germany and 137m² in Denmark.

The research, which was published in the Building Research & Information journal, chose the London Housing Design Guide as a way of reflecting the size of housing from a UK context.

Flats and small terraced houses were found to be the most commonly undersized, while households with children were most likely to be overcrowded.

The study also looked closely at people who were receiving Housing Benefit and found that 72 per cent of those dwellings were considered undersized.

The authors of the report warned that the cramped conditions can lead to depression as well as asthma.

Co-author of the report Malcolm Morgan said: ‘In extreme cases, overcrowded homes can cause physical illnesses such as depression.

‘Less extreme cases can cause anxiety or stress, or impact on children’s social and emotional development.’

The new study has criticised the government’s bedroom tax – which would penalise social housing tenants who are deemed to have a spare rooms in their houses – as ‘fundamentally flawed’.

It is not the first time that the UK’s housing standards have been attacked. In 2011, RIBA caused controversy after a report accused housebuilders of creating ‘shameful shoe-box homes’ across the country.

The report claimed that the average new three-bedroom home was eight per cent smaller than the recommended minimum size. The report was severly criticised by the house-building industry.

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