small house

Cardboard boxes! Are British homes getting smaller?

Need a bit more space?

A recent study by RIBA (The Royal Institute of British Architects) found that most new build homes in the UK are at least one whole room smaller in square metres, than older houses, in fact they go on to suggest that this is detrimental to our health, but why?

RIBA advisor Mark Crosby has said “the lack of space in homes today was shown to have a negative affect on “the basic lifestyle needs that many families take for granted”.

He noted that in extreme cases of cramped conditions, it was having a negative effect on “health, educational attainment and relationships” so why are these small homes being built, and more to the point, why are people buying them?

So with this borne in mind, let’s look at some possible reasons why homes are shrinking.

There is a new housing estate near to me, built on brownfield land, but with a nice river view, marketed by Linden homes.

These are locally known as “rabbit hutches” or “cardboard boxes” by the existing local residents. The developer has the cheek to charge “from” £172,000 for a pokey 3 bedroom terraced home.

It is worth noting that not 15 years ago, you could buy a small, and I do mean small, 3 bed terraced home in my city for around £60,000.

As my own home, built in the 1960’s, overlooks the aforementioned development, I decided to do a m2 comparison and found that FOUR of the brand new homes (including “garden”) mentioned above, would fit into the plot my house stands on! (My home is a 3 bed semi “Wimpey” home.)

cardboard box
A close up of a housing development near to me!

Bear in mind this is one, real-life example of small housing developments up and down the country, where greedy developers shoe-horn as much as they can into a limited plot to make the most money.

The recent phenomenon of “Garden grabs” by housing developers has also seen big companies buy homes with large gardens and then knock down the one existing dwelling, even if the property is habitable and in good order, often to build up to 30 homes in what is essentially meant to be someone’s back garden!

So even on the surface, and if you have a family, kids etc, you should relate to this, we all need our space, so what do you think happens when we all live in a reduced space, one that is getting ever smaller as the years go by?

You can imagine tempers’ fraying, sleepless nights listening to the neighbours snoring through wafer-thin walls, tiny postage-stamp gardens, small rooms, and no garage.

And all this for “only” £172,000?

Developers often use tricks in their “show homes” such as removing internal doors or having hardly any furniture inside, so it looks much bigger.

The consequence of local councils approving developments just so they can get more council tax from the new residents.

There was outrage when the aforementioned housing estate was approved by my local council and now a few years down the line, the traffic around here is now a total nightmare.

Residents raised many concerns at the time, all of which were COMPLETELY IGNORED by Plymouth City council. Does that sound a familiar take in your area too?

Many councils allow building on land with zero thought to the consequences of extra traffic and noise etc, so are local councils to blame for letting these “rabbit hutches” be built in the first place?

For our readers in the USA, 172,000 pounds sterling equates to around a quarter of a million dollars, for a home probably no bigger than your garage back home.

The average size of a house in the UK is a paltry 76m2 (about 800 sq feet), which seems minuscule if we compare it to other countries such as Canada at 181 m2 (1,948 ft2. Looking the other way and comparing British home sizes with Hong Kong, the average space in a new home is only 45 m2 (484 sq ft)

If we look a the homes built in this country during the inter-war housing boom, you don’t even need to get out your tape measure to see that homes of today are much smaller than before.

And what do these homes look like?

hooe lake homes

This 3 bedroom house (centre house, remember the photo above shows THREE homes) overlooking Hooe Lake, the development I mentioned earlier, is currently being sold on Zoopla, for £330,000. And what a rip off that is. So this is the future is it?

Cramped, flimsy homes for the cost of what a country mansion was in the 1980’s? Are these people on drugs?!

Of course I’m not suggesting that this particular developer builds poor quality homes, I’m not, I am merely comparing and contrasting building the homes of today, with the homes of yesteryear, but I disagree with the various “road improvements” that occurred in the area when planning permission was granted.

What do the “suits” say about this?

Well, RIBA anyway, argue that there should be a minimum size of homes being built nowadays, although developers argue that there is not enough land to go around, not enough land being released for building.

And coupled with mass migration into our country (thanks to the Labour Party and the EU), demand for housing in Britain is sky-high, yet available homes, to buy or to rent, is at an all time low.

So we are faced with a lack of land to build on, a reluctance from the government to step in and enforce minimum sizes, apathy from local councils’, against a backdrop of massive customer demand.

“How big is your house?”

It could be suggested that people today do not realise how small their homes really are compared to their European counterparts and if you asked anyone in your office right now, how large their home is in square feet, they would not be able to tell you.

Saying that, if you do ask them how large their property is, they would probably indicate its size by the number of BEDROOMS, e.g. “A 3 bed semi” or a “4 bed terraced house”, but if rooms internally are much smaller by today’s standards, it’s anyone’s guess how big their home actually is!

So what’s the solution to small houses?



“There is nowhere near enough available land to build on.”

Do you believe this to be true?

The BBC did a study last year and noted that the Labour government set a target to build almost a quarter of a million homes each year to keep up with demand.

It never happened. Even a DECADE ago, the Barker Review of Housing Supply (March 17, 2004) noted the same figure of a quarter of a million homes needed yet subsequent governments have not built anything like this amount, so what went wrong?


“There are too many people looking for housing, which pushes prices upwards”

Since the Labour government of Tony Blair opened our borders up to mass immigration, our population has skyrocketed, but the building of homes for these people has not.

If the UK votes to leave the EU on June 23rd, it will still take 2 years for us to formally get out, and in that time, EU nationals, especially Eastern Europeans, could swarm into our country to beat a deadline.

UPDATED 2019: We still haven’t left the EU!

A significant factor in the shortage of housing is the rise in population over a short length of time, which in turn has had a negative effect on British households, so much so that often, smaller and less suitable housing is taken because nothing else is available. Now that would stress most families out, living in a smaller house, and it’s affected me too.

  • “There are now 53,000 homeless households in the U.K., 13,000 more than five years ago. This growth is due to families being unable to find a suitable new home when they reach the end of their tenancies in the private rented sector.”
  • “The proportion of people living in poverty who live in the private rented sector has nearly doubled over the last 10 years to 4.2 million.”. SOURCE:

Last year even the governor of the bank of England noted that UK house building was HALF the amount of his native Canada, yet our population is TWICE as large as Canada, and the land of the maple leaf is the 2nd largest country in the world.

So if I told you that the UK is massively overcrowded, with the above statement considered, do you now believe me?

We can see clearly, using this graph, that the amount of homes that this country needs to build has been in sharp decline with no end in sight.


Sorry, we’re full.

What is the solution to our shrinking homes?

From the evidence above, we can summarise here:

  • New build homes are shrinking in our country, both literally in size, and in the availability and affordability, of decent homes to buy or rent.
  • The government need to simplify the release of land for new homes
  • We need to leave the EU, control our borders and reduce our population. Massively.
  • Restrictions need to be put in place to curtail rogue landlords
  • Minimum size, and plot size, rules need to be brought in, and enforced.
  • Local councils should be made responsible for ignoring infrastructure requirements and they should build new roads, new train stations etc, to combat congestion.
  • Future homes need to consider family size, lifestyle and the general well-being of residents, with space inside and plenty of natural light and ventilation.
  • More council houses need to be built, to replace the ones sold as “right to buy”.


Living in a cramped home, paying huge rent, not having a rats chance in hell of saving the 40 grand needed for a deposit on a tiny home, it stresses me out so maybe the architects were right after all; cramped housing DOES affect health.

UPDATED: 21ST JUNE 2018: House prices have gone even higher, with the only drops in prices seeming to be in London’s crazy housing market. Where will it end? In 20 years time will I be paying £1000 to live a garden shed?

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