Debate Magazine

"Would a Bigger House Make You Happier?"

Posted on the 11 September 2018 by Markwadsworth @Mark_Wadsworth

Good article by the BBC:
It is common to hear concerns about pokey new-builds and sky-high rents forcing people into ever smaller homes. But the reality is that living spaces in England and Wales are actually larger than ever, with the average home increasing from 88 to 90 square metres between 2004 and 2016.
Instead, the issue is that the distribution of space has become more unequal.
Owner-occupiers often have a lot of space compared with younger renters, who may be sharing a home with several others. In 2017, about 28% of UK households contained one person, up from 17% in 1971.
Meanwhile, the proportion of families and individuals sharing private rented housing has almost tripled since 1992 to 6.6%, according to research by the Resolution Foundation think tank.

---------------------------
UPDATE, responding to comments.
Ontheotherhand: No it's not a good article. It's sloppy. Especially the bit that you quote.
Click through to the underlying ONS article as the journalist clearly did not, and you will find that the whole premise of the article is flawed. The average size of homes is not being measured. It is only the size of those homes that have been sold that year, and it is not mix adjusted.
"Both (habitable) rooms and floor space have seen small increases over the period with the biggest shift seen between 2008 and 2009. During this period there was an increase in the proportion of detached properties purchased (Figure 3) and a respective fall in the proportion of flats."
Britain has the smallest average room size and also we have the smallest newly-built dwellings in Europe. Only England and Wales have no minimum space standards for housing. All other European countries do.
https://web.archive.org/web/20171205092304/http://www.swingacat.info:80/facts_figures.php

Agreed, the UK has the smallest homes, room sizes in Europe etc. No dispute there. But if you read the full article, it explains that it is all relative ("keeping up with the Jones's"). The old lady from Hong Kong thought our flats were generously proportioned, and I have heard Japanese people say how large London back gardens are by Japanese standards, even though they are small by English standards.
Even if the statistics on room sizes only relate to new builds and not overall average, if new builds are larger than the existing average, then overfall, the average must increase, however slightly.
L fairfax: I thought this bit was strange
"As a nation, we do not seem to be getting any happier with our housing, even though living space and housing conditions have improved for many people. "
Has living space really improved compared to 20-30 years ago? I find that hard to believe. (I know it is better than 100 years ago).

Let's assume, for sake of argument, that total living space per person is pretty much constant (new builds have - as a matter of fact - exceeded population growth in most years). The main point of the article is that the space we have is woefully unevenly and hence inefficiently distributed, it is not the happiness maximising distribution.
There are about 75 million bedrooms in the UK, that's enough for one per person/couple plus one spare bedroom per household. If we all had that much, we'd all be reasonably happy.


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