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Boris Johnson urged to legislate against tiny ‘Hobbit Homes’

A leading figure in urban design is urging new Prime Minister Boris Johnson to stand up for the pioneering space standards he introduced as London Mayor.

When Mayor for eight years Johnson introduced a total of 75 housing standards for the capital, including some which honoured his pledge to “end Hobbit Homes” - very small properties, often but not exclusively the result of conversions.

This include a minimum size for a single-person home of 37 square metres: this was adopted across the country as the Nationally Described Space Standard but ministers of the day chose not to make it mandatory and instead left it to councils to enforce on a case by case basis if they wished.

Now Julia Park, head of housing research at architectural consultancy Levitt Bernstein, says Johnson should ensure that standard and others are enforced nationally.

Writing online about Johnson’s tenure as Mayor she says: “It was all going swimmingly until 2013, when Permitted Development Rights, allowing office buildings to be converted to housing without requiring normal planning permission, were introduced. It meant that none of your 75 standards could be applied to these developments, even in London. If there were any lingering doubts about the need to protect basic attributes, they soon evaporated.

Six years and at least 42,000 homes later (experts believe the real number is nearer 70,000), we have thousands of tiny, inaccessible new homes with no outdoor space.”

Park now believes that single room studios of only 13 square metres are not uncommon “and one of just 8.3 square metres has also come to light.” 

She continues in her article aimed at the new PM: “If you deduct 2.5 square metres for a small shower/toilet cubicle, the ’13 square metre home’ reduces to 10.5 square metres - considerably smaller than the 12 square metres you required for a double bedroom.  And the ‘8.3 square metre’ home  to 5.8 square metres - well below the 8.0 square metres you required for a child’s bedroom.”

And she adds: “The homes created under PDR may just about be fit for hobbits but they are certainly not fit for human habitation.” 

Her firm has set up a petition against such small properties; you can see it here.

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