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Patrik Schumacher: Relax ‘outmoded’ space standards for EasyJet-style housing

Patrik schumacher at waf

Zaha Hadid Architects chief Patrik Schumacher has urged ministers to relax minimum space standards to allow EasyJet-style budget housing

Schumacher said permitting smaller studio flats to be built would bring a new income group into the housing market.

The comments came in an essay for right-wing think-tank the Adam Smith Institute, titled Only Capitalism can Solve the Housing Crisis.

Schumacher, principal at Zaha Hadid Architects, wrote: ‘Currently studio flats below 38m² are not permitted. Yet units half that size, built at an earlier time, are rare and thus at the moment overpriced, hotly desired commodities for rent or for sale.

‘Lifting this prohibition would allow a whole new (lower) income group, which is now excluded, to enter the market. This move would both boost overall unit numbers and affordability.’

He said entrepreneurs would create homes for people on low incomes if the government relaxed the law.

He added: ‘If McDonalds or Subway can deliver delicious eating-out experiences, and EasyJet can deliver air travel to this income group, then a Taylor Wimpey should be able to deliver decent, truly affordable housing, but only if government withdraws and lets the market get to work.’

Schumacher – who earlier this year called for swathes of central London to become car-free zones – said arguments about space standards often become emotional.

He said: ‘Many people who don’t understand how markets work seem afraid that the liberalisation of standards implies that people are then “forced” to live in “rabbit hutches”. Markets never work via force, but always via being forced to adjust to consumer preferences.’

‘Those who are now making the hard choice between paying 80 per cent of their income on a central flat versus commuting from afar will in the liberalised future appreciate new options and perhaps choose to pay only 60 per cent for a smaller but more central flat.

‘For many young professionals who are out and about networking 24/7, a small, clean, private hotel-room sized central patch serves their needs perfectly well. They don’t need paternalist politicians with outmoded standards to protect them.’

Government guidance published in 2015 said a one-person, one-bedroom home could measure 37m² if it contained a shower room, rather than a bath.


Readers' comments (15)

  • how about rent control?

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  • We tried rent control in the 70s and 80s. It failed, and was expensive? I lived in a small double bedroom/living room with ensuite bathroom while working on Chep Lap Kok. All prefabricated. Communal sports and eating facilities, plus all the fast food and entertainment of HK. Similar to London. That was in the 90s, and now everything is online. Some people had their partners with them, and that worked too.

    Just keep Government of all kinds out of the mix? Just give us the land, and we will finish the job. Rent or buy?

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  • John Kellett

    If the only homes on the market in your price bracket (sale or rent) are too small live in or swing a cat without braining it (no matter how 'well designed'), then customers are being forced. Whilst it is possible to live in spaces smaller than 38 sqm. it is impossible if you are older and have material goods such as computers, books, records, clothes, a spouse etc. etc.

    If the tiny space, whether house, flat or boat, is NOT your primary residence then tiny is OK because ones Worldly goods are elsewhere.

    Capitalism has it's advantages but architecture is not one of them. Good design / architecture is INDEPENDENT of political or monetary system. 'Supply and Demand' can be divisive, in that demand is dictated by supply. The automotive market customers need EVs but the manufacturers cannot meet the supply so sell fossil fuel powered cars instead and have to lay people off because of that. Please do not allow developers or house-builders similar get-out excuses.

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  • Land is a finite resource where people want to live. Ingredients of a burger, arguably is not, and can be transported. Architects like Mr. Schumacher simply reveal their ignorances of basic economics.

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  • I wonder if Patrik Schumacher has ever stayed in an Easy-Jet style hotel?
    Maybe OK for one night, but only just - and an experience unlikely to be repeated in a hurry. His dream home might be OK as a weekday pied-a-terre for one person, but that's very different from somewhere that you'd be happy to call home.

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  • We are not robots. This proposition leads inevitably to a 'back mirror' type of high density dystopian future but this is not predestined, we all have a choice. I choose not to live in Schumacher's world and can see a different future where infrastructure works, where we all have adequate space, where all energy is sustainable and everyone has a home. This is possible and this should be the target, any divergence from this, any watering down of the ideal, leads to a race to the bottom, lower standards of living, lower quality of life and ultimately rebellion and the failure of the state. If society does not progress for the benefit of all of its citizens it will ultimately fail as history has shown many time before.

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  • Please think before submitting a daft comment. You don’t need a big house unless you have kids? Junk the unecessary stuff. Live out. Go to the gym or library or sports club. Leave some space for the other animals? Capsule wardrobe? Do you really need to own a car?

    Schumacher is a revolutionary, and gets the requisite Daily Mail/Mirror response. Think Bucky Fuller, Barnes Wallis? Steve Jobs? Norman Foster?

    We are the designers. We need a brave new world for the creatures in it???

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  • David, are you referring to my comment as daft? Did I mention big houses, cars etc. no - HMO's with shared facilities already exist, student housing already exists - I have lived in both. The housing standards are not about students or sharers they are about mass housing provision. In my view reducing the standards will reduce the quality of life for a generation and not help the housing crisis at all. If another type of tenure, a large scale HMO type of home is proposed then that's fine but it doesn't need any change in the standard. I don't believe that Schumacher is on the pedestal you put him but time will tell.

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  • Perhaps Mr PS has read the The Fountianhead a few too many times. He comments suggests that some sort of Ayn Rand dystopia is inevitable.

    However the late 20 century world of 'the market knows all' seems a very long time ago, and most advanced electorates understand that there is actually a choice to be made. Unfortunately in terms of housing in the UK it's largely generational:
    - Market driven rabbit hutches for everyone under 40 years old, and low taxation (mainly to the baby boomers benefit)
    - Higher taxes and reasonable homes and accommodation for younger people starting out in life.
    Take your pick....

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  • The real issue is whether the cost of housing is being driven by the cost of construction and therefore extra floorspace equals money or whether it is a bubble dependant on a whole host of other political factors.

    Looking at inflation in construction costs it is fairly constant but accelerating in the last quarter of 2017 to give a yearly average of 3.2%. This is of course far lower than house prices. Equally land values since 2014 have not increased significantly with London falling since 2015. Both of these factors, if costs were increasing rapidly, could be used to justify smaller units but in the circumstances they cannot and therefore the cost of housing is divorced from its physical costs and is simply costed at what people are prepared to pay.

    The only way that undersized units will cost significantly less is if buyers are not prepared to pay large amounts for them and this is only likely to happen is if they are in undesirable places to live or they do not provide a good standard of accommodation. However any size of property with similar criteria would also be cheap so where is the necessity to under-size homes?

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