Small is beautiful? Making sense of ‘shrinking’ housing

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Abstract

Current land pressures in the world cities of the global North are encouraging a move towards denser urban living and the development of smaller homes than was the case in recent decades. While this appears environmentally beneficial when compared with the alternative of suburban sprawl, this comes at a cost: the number of extremely small homes appears to be increasing particularly rapidly, with less communal and public space available to those living in compact homes which offer little room for socialising, storing possessions or working at home. Drawing specifically on the experience of England & Wales, with a focus on London, this commentary highlights the need for the regulation of home size, noting the growing evidence of the negative impact of dense urban living on mental and physical health, home-working, and familial and intimate relations, as well as affordability. It suggests that rather than being a reasoned response to the housing and environmental crises, the phenomena of ‘shrinking homes’ indicates the growing role of finance in the development of cities, suggestive of the way that developers are extracting maximum value from restricted urban sites in an era of planning deregulation. In conclusion, the commentary argues urban scholarship needs to compile more evidence of space inequality in cities, pushing for policies designed to enforce minimal space standards while reducing the ability of the wealthy to construct very large homes.
Original languageEnglish
JournalURBAN STUDIES
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 2 Apr 2024

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