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30 April 2021

Urban Futures Group Explores Increasing Use of 'Micro-Apartments'.

Researchers from the King’s College London looked at how homes in London having been shrinking and why the COVID-19 pandemic may increase the use of ‘micro-apartments.’

Block of Flats
Block of flats

Researchers from the Urban Futures group are warning of a rise in substandard ‘micro-apartment’ housing.

The project explores how a variety of factors are encouraging a move towards increasingly compact, high-density, vertical living in London.

With the average home now 1/3 smaller than new homes built in the 1970s, research using big data analysis by The Urban Futures Group found that 1 in 20 homes in London built between 2012 and 2019 was a ‘micro-home’ or apartment. Far from providing the than 37m2 in living space, an average of 1 in 10 newly built homes had an average size as small as 28m2, contravening the 2015 National Space Standards minimum recommended size for a one-bedroom home in Britain.

These micro-homes aren’t limited to where land value is expensive, and are often found in outer boroughs of city spaces. One of the large contributing factors that has driven this shift is are permitted development rights (PDRs), which allow the development of flats in office buildings – and, from this year, shops – without planning permission. These spaces are consequently often lacking in local amenities, as the areas were never designed to be domiciliary.

Whilst micro-apartments are often aimed towards young professionals or ‘early career’ households, they are often the only affordable option. This risks impacting already vulnerable people negatively, as they are more likely to end up in the most poorly-built homes.

The Urban Futures group is also urging policymakers to improve urban living by expanding and bringing forward new ideas. Professor Phil Hubbard, the lead researcher, said: “We know that many of the changes driven by the pandemic will have lasting impacts on how we use our urban environment, from a reduction in high street stores to an increase in the use of hyper-localism and the idea of the ’30 minute city’. Government - both a local and national level - must begin to grapple with this changing reality.”

He also made clear that the pandemic has only made things worse.

“With many residents in the UK spending lockdown in substandard housing, the pandemic highlights the problems of ‘micro-apartments’ . Too often, this housing is designed to a low standard and below minimum size requirements. Following the second world war, the government created ‘homes fit for heroes’. We should be thinking similarly concerning post-pandemic housing.”


In this story

Professor Philip Hubbard

Professor of Urban Studies