London’s draft housing strategy [published last week] is a bit contradictory. The strategy is to maintain minimum space standards yet support types of affordable home ownership that are accessible to those with incomes below £90K p.a. With Help to Buy, our micro-apartments are affordable for singles earning £35K p.a. and £56K without Help to Buy; and couples earning £20K each with Help to Buy or £28K each without it.
The Mayor recently invested £25m in Pocket Living for 37 sqm one-bedroom and 55 sqm two-bedroom apartments in London, so there is clearly flexibility. The problem with Pocket’s model is that their planning consent restricts them to only being able to offer apartments to those who live or work in the borough, mainly because genuinely affordable private homes are so oversubscribed and boroughs want to look after their own first. Clearly, City Hall doesn’t realise how popular micro-apartments are, otherwise space standards would have been relaxed more generally to enable more of these affordable private micro-homes to be delivered.
Off the back of the Which? article, ITV News sent a reporter to tour our micro-apartment schemes in Croydon. They posted a video of our 31.5 sqm Central Cross micro-apartment on Facebook and asked people if they would feel at home in a ‘pint sized’ apartment. There were 141K views and 881 comments. We analysed the comments and of those whose expressed an opinion, 84.5% were positive. Only 15.5% were negative.
Looking at their profile pictures, the comments were from people from all walks of life, not just young people. A woman who was clearly in her 70s said our micro-apartment was ‘bigger and better’ than her council bungalow. Someone from China commented that it would be a large house in Hong Kong; and someone from Toronto said that they have had micro-apartments over there for years. Lots of people said that they had already lived contently in a small apartment; and lots of others said our apartment was lovely and perfect for a couple or single person.
Also disappointing was the absence of any mention of co-living in the strategy despite a wave of new providers announcing their intentions over the summer. Co-living, another micro concept, is a proven solution for affordable purpose-built private rented homes and could form a key component of the Mayor’s Build to Rent and London Living Rent (LLR) policies [LLR is designed to be accessible to those earning less than £60K p.a.].
Publication of the draft commences a three-month consultation to get feedback on the strategy and the Mayor wants ordinary Londoners as well as the industry to give their views. I would love it if those who commented on Facebook gave their views. Those who wish to participate in the consultation can do so by visiting www.london.gov.uk/have-your-say-housing-strategy-consultation.
Written by Martin Skinner, chief executive at Inspired Homes and Inspired Asset Management.