In praise of the bungalow

As political hand-ringing over the housing crisis continues, you rarely hear bungalows mentioned, yet they are a crucial part of the housing mix, without which nothing will be solved.

In the 1980s about 17% of new homes being built were bungalows, by 1996 it was 7%, and now it’s only 1%.  Most residential developments include a range of flats, terraced, semi or detached houses, but seldom bungalows. Yet the demand is there – existing bungalows often sell for more than the equivalent house because they are in such short supply. At one MPC consultation for an award-winning developer (who always includes bungalows) the ratio of people registering their interest in purchasing a single storey dwelling versus the number proposed, was a staggering 5:1.

Interestingly, the inclusion of bungalows often moves people or communities from NIMBYs to YIMBYs. While bungalows have fans across the whole population, they are often preferred by those with limited mobility due to their improved accessibility. They are also very popular with elderly homeowners – the demographic most likely to oppose development. However, many developers still omit them from proposals because high land prices and planning regulations on density levels can make the inclusion of single storey properties counter-productive.

Nonetheless, until we ensure bungalows are routinely included in new developments, we will never make the housing chain flow efficiently because of the blockage caused by the lack of existing stock. Take my 92-year-old Nan – she still lives in her 1950s town house with her only bathroom on the middle floor and bedrooms on the top, even though the house is too big and two flights of stairs a daily hazard. She wants to live independently but there are no bungalows in her neighbourhood. Likewise, a recently widowed lady offered to sell her family house to a young couple from our village. She spent two years looking for a bungalow nearby, but sadly died before finding anything. Her house got stuck in probate and it was a further 18 months (on top of the original 24) before the couple (now with children in tow) were able to move in.

We need every cog in this housing chain to work if we are to make the system fit for purpose and that has to include the oft-maligned bungalow. 

This article was written by Sereena Davey, Associate Director at MPC.