The ‘rabbit hutch’ flat – a glorified cage or a golden opportunity?

When I moved to Central London, I was acutely aware that I wasn’t going to get much square footage for my rent budget. Having been a student for four years previously, I was prepared for a rather bijou existence.

Now working for MPC, however, I am no longer so laissez-faire when it comes to the size of my home. The growing trend for ‘rabbit hutch flats’, prevalent in the London housing industry, has more than grabbed my attention; the relaxing of government planning regulations to encourage the conversion of office space into residential units has caused quite a storm and has prompted me to seriously reflect upon my position as a member of generation rent.

In October last year, Gavin Barwell said, “if I was 22 today, I would rather have the chance to own [a smaller property] than be priced out”. As a 22-year-old myself, I am rather inclined to agree. When balancing my desire for space and the prospect of a long commute, for me there is but one winner; I would prefer to own a place of my own here than embrace the life of a commuter. From this perspective, this initiative fills the gaps for millennials, as our needs are evidently far different from those of families and older homeowners.

So, it may be fair to say that these tiny homes have their place. I hasten to add, however, that I don’t think 15 and 16 square metre flats should become the new norm. While I fit the profile of these developers’ target buyer, it is unrealistic to believe this new form of housing will be reserved for my generation.

As a society, we recognise that we have a duty to protect the most vulnerable. From this view, the concerns of housing and welfare charities on this matter could not be more profound. Our quality of life is not something to be trifled with. I, like many others, fear that these small homes will be the catalyst for further developments, where struggling families will be forced to live long-term. While perhaps suitable for temporary accommodation for those in desperate need, they cannot be embraced as a tool to paper over the cracks of the capital’s housing shortage.

To turn to local councillors, it is understandable that they are highly concerned that about losing their power to prevent developments on the basis they are too crowded. On paper, homes in England are among some of the smallest in Europe, and this is bound to have an impact on the population’s happiness. This initiative and change in policy, has the potential to not only cement this problem but to cause it to soar

In an ideal world, strict regulation would be enforced to ensure these homes are reserved for generation rent. As stated above, I do not deny they are good for a fixed purpose. Ultimately, however, how can we guarantee that they will be handled with due caution? Unfortunately, I cannot conclude with an answer to this question and I fear that no one can provide a robust solution.

Instead, I will conclude with the striking thought that the same, identical space can be perceived by some as a golden opportunity and, by others, as a living nightmare.

This article was written by Molly Jarritt, Account Executive at MPC.