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Column 2nd February 2022

Houses suitable for working from home

A recent Barratt Developments and Lichfields report ‘Working from Home: Planning for the New Normal’ supposedly highlights how having a dedicated space at home for doing their job supports the wellbeing of working people.

It draws on a survey which reveals that 49 per cent of households feel their current property is “unsuitable” for working from home, with only 28 per cent of respondents saying they have a dedicated work space such as a study, rather than working at the dining room table.

The report shows that an estimated 7.5 million people hope to work from home on a permanent basis, which is double the pre-lockdown estimate.

Sixty-nine per cent of respondents said they would prefer an additional room in their home as a dedicated office space.

The report goes on to suggest that local authorities should be planning for larger homes rather than 1 or 2 bedroom homes to meet this need.

This is a great idea but assumes that larger homes are affordable.

My cynical view is that this might be simply developers trying to skew planning to allow more expensive (and more profitable) to be built.

Homes are increasingly expensive and house prices have increased by much more than inflation over the last two years in most areas of the country.

Many pundits tell us that this is because people want more outdoor space and are moving away from high density areas so that they can improve their wellbeing.

I know that having more space (both in the home and around the home) can create the opportunities for more home working and more exercise but the policies of all recent governments has been to encourage higher density and optimise space utilisation.

This is just another way of saying new homes have limited (if any) storage space and smaller rooms and outdoor spaces.

This can increase the developer profitability and, conversely, reduce the wellbeing of residents.

There is also the idea that a very small room (suitable for a chair and a laptop or tablet) could meet the need for a dedicated office (or a built-in wardrobe).

This could add value to the house (and increase the price) at very little cost to developers.

I just hope that these dedicated office spaces have windows otherwise they won’t do much to improve wellbeing.

Is this just another way of taking the focus away from reducing the carbon footprint of new developments?


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