A failure to build enough homes is shrinking average living space in many cities.
Centre for Cities has identified which cities offer people the most – and least – living space per head, and where it has fallen in recent years.
People in Slough, Luton and Coventry have the least living space per person, while those in Blackpool, Birkenhead and Bournemouth enjoy the most.
As well as being among the cities offering the smallest average amount of individual living space, Coventry has seen the biggest fall in space since 2011, followed by Brighton and Exeter.
On the other hand Cambridge has seen average living space per person increase by over 10% since 2011 – the largest increase in the country.
The average urban floor space per person now stands at 393.4 ft2 (36.6sqm), compared to 464.8 ft2 (43.1sqm) outside urban areas. Proposals to expand permitted development rights, which would allow individuals to expand their homes in line with building regulations and design guides without requiring planning permission, aim to increase this.
|Cities with the least space per person, 2018||Cities with the most space per person, 2018|
|Rank||City||Space (ft2)||Rank||City||Space (ft2)|
|Cities with the largest decrease in space per person, 2011 – 2018||Cities with the largest increase in space per person, 2011 – 2018|
|City||Change in Space (%)||Rank||City||Change in Space (%)|
Cities offering residents the least space on average per person are mostly in expensive cities in the Greater South East of England. In these places, the failure of housing supply to keep up with demand is likely to be a cause, forcing young professionals and other workers into houses of multiple occupancy.
However, living in a city with more residential space per person is not without disadvantages. Those with the most living space typically offer residents fewer job opportunities and lower incomes. Birkenhead for example, despite offering the second highest residential space per person, also has the third lowest weekly wages in the UK and the fifth highest proportion of under-25s claiming Job Seekers’ Allowance.
The best way to prevent living space shrinking further is to build more homes overall in the most expensive cities. Permitted development rights are one way of doing this but the planning system also needs a much larger overhaul.
The next Government should strengthen local plans to ensure that, once in place, all plan-compliant new homes can be freely delivered without interference unless the local authority explicitly vetoes them.
Centre for Cities’ Chief Executive Andrew Carter said:
“A failure to deliver enough housing in the economically successful cities that need it most is resulting in many workers sharing flats and houses of multiple occupancy. This shrinks the average living space that they have.
“The next Government should expand upon the work already done on permitted development rights and strengthen local housing plans against NIMBY opposition. Once a local plan is in place it should expect to be delivered except in the most exceptional circumstances.”
Notes to editors
In September, Centre for Cities set out a proposal to build up to 2.1 million new homes around train stations in the greenbelt close to several of Britain’s largest cities.
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