So the UK government is finally waking up to the fact that new homes which have been built in recent decades are too small for comfort (see the news item at BBC). This is good news, but much overdue. There are minimum standards for social housing, but not for the private sector. What does this mean?
Well, private housebuilders are in it for profit and by literally cutting corners off your house they can make more money. What you get is, you’ll be told, a house you couldn’t otherwise afford, but can you actually live in it in any sane and humane way?
There are new houses not far from where I live which have bedrooms too small to cope with anything other than a bed – forget the luxuries like bedside table and wardrobe! So bedroom 2 becomes a dressing room, except once the wardrobe is in you’d have to stand out on the landing to fasten your trousers or skirt. Some ‘single bedrooms’ are barely bigger than the intended single bed, so where does anyone put clothes or the personal items that civilised life requires? Bathrooms have shrunk, too, as if someone forgot to pre-shink the material. Toilets are squeezed in to the narrowest of places so that the very purpose for which they are intended is impossible to all but the skeletal. In these vestibules of ablution a hot bath is the preserve of the amputee or vertically challenged.
Entrance halls once housed a cupboard for outer wear, a telephone table and, more often than not, storage under the stairs. Now you almost have to remove your overcoat before you can close the outer door.
You’ll notice that things like electric fires are becoming thin and flat, like televisions. This is to give adults the chance to be able to sit on the sofa and stretch their legs out without setting fire to their feet – but only if the sofa is jammed hard against the back wall so that anyone else in the room must negotiate the half-reclining parents like a heron picking its way through reed beds. And don’t trip, or you’ll split your head open on the opposite wall which is not quite the height of a human away.
Only a few days ago the not-so-svelte Eric Pickles said that new houses should have a cupboard outside in which to hide the ghastly refuse bins. Yes, I can agree with that, it is something that much of Europe has always done. But while he cringes at having to see his empties – of which I am sure there are many – some people would give their right arms to have a cupboard to put their wanted belongings in. Some would be glad to have a bin store to sleep in.
Living in too small a space – and it is worsened where the ceilings are so low that a fart with the windows shut can require the services of a glazier – does people’s heads in. These shoe boxes of misery are the modern day House of Horror.
There’s just no room for the candelabra, parties and ghosts.
- Eric Pickles: We will end ‘wheelie bin blight’ on pavements (telegraph.co.uk)
- London housing crisis: the poverty of ‘pay to stay’ (theguardian.com)