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New definition for micro living is game changer

Micro living infographic

The British Property Federation (BPF) in collaboration with JLL has published new research defining ‘micro living’. The term refers to a group of accommodation types that do not conform to the UK’s current minimum space standards.

The housing crisis has led many developers to innovate new types of affordable private accommodation, both for rent and sale. However, without a clear definition for these types of accommodation and recognition in the planning system, they have struggled to get off the ground. Developers have resorted to office-to-residential conversions to deliver micro-apartments as minimum space standards make it difficult to go down the new-build route with planning permission often refused.

Another accommodation type, co-living, comes in the form of en-suite cluster rooms with shared kitchen/ living areas and shared social spaces such as residents’ lounges, bars and even cinemas. These ‘campus-style’ schemes are typically for rent to young professionals but have so far only come forward by repurposing student accommodation, as was the case with The Collective’s Old Oak scheme in Harlesden.

Inspired Homes has collaborated with the BPF and other developers/ property consultants working in this space, forming a Compact Living Working Group to define micro living. Following consultation with the Working Group, the BPF, working in partnership with JLL, undertook detailed analysis of the terminology used to describe small housing products from across the world to come up with three micro living categories:

1. Compact Living – self-contained smaller homes encapsulating a diverse range of global terms
including micro, nano, tiny and compact.
2. Co-Living – purpose-built, managed developments often in the form of cluster rooms that
include a combination of personal and shared amenity space.
3. Shared Living – converted or subdivided houses / HMOs or historic forms of sharing such as
dormitories or old-style student halls of residence.

Last month, Inspired hosted the Working Group at our Green Dragon House development in Croydon where they were given a tour of the shared spaces including the Sky Terrace and Residents’ Lounge as well as our 31 square metre Innova show apartment.

Commenting, Martin Skinner, said: “Having a clear industry-recognised definition for micro living is a game changer. It will help pave the way for the inclusion of these much-needed accommodation types in the planning system. Competition for Permitted Development sites is fierce and fewer and fewer micro-apartment schemes are now viable.

“With co-living, developers have to apply for Sui Generis student accommodation and then seek to amend it locally to allow it to be rented to non-students. The planning risk as well as the length of time needed to get a two-stage consent makes co-living schemes difficult to fund and impossible in areas that don’t have enough students despite the intention always being to rent to non-students.

“It’s clear that there is a lot of momentum behind the micro living movement and we hope to be able to deliver new-build micro-apartment and co-living schemes in the not so distant future.”

Ian Fletcher, Director of Real Estate Policy, British Property Federation, comments: “We wanted to unpack what micro-living is, as it comes in various shapes and forms and is not always well understood as a result. About a third of renters live in shared houses at present and therefore, to some extent, micro living is already a realty for many renters, and so there is scope to assess whether purpose-built micro living can play a bigger role in providing much-needed new homes. Having your own place, whether rented or bought, is an important rite of passage, that provides independence and vital life skills. It is therefore important this sector is better understood – particularly if there are people who prioritise location over the size of their home, and find value in the societal gains brought by more people living in central urban areas.”

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