Are ‘micro-flats’ the affordable solution to London’s rental crisis?

The scheme aims to tackle the 'hollowing out of central London'

Words by Jadie Troy-Pryde

It’s hardly news that the rental housing crisis is (still) depressing, and if you’re living in London with dreams of buying a place of your own one day then you’d better not be in a hurry – estate agents Hamptons International calculated that it’ll take a single first-time buyer living in London around 45 years to save enough. Great!

While rental prices soar and wages are failing to keep up with the increase, many young professionals and middle-earners are left paying through the nose for the privilege of living in the capital.

But one solution to the lack of affordable housing could be ‘micro-flats’. The Telegraph reports that housing regeneration developer U+I aims to diminish the ‘hollowing out of central London’ to provide housing for thousands of Londoners as part of their Town Flats scheme, launching this week.

The housing consists of units between 19 and 24 square metres in size and would be located in central locations across Zones 1 and 2. While they are significantly smaller than the space recommended by Greater London Authority, they offer individuals the chance to live in prime areas – albeit, in compact quarters.

The ‘micro-flats’ are situated in blocks which have communal areas, with the plans including a shared kitchen and rooftop terrace, as well as a co-working space. The price tag comes in at between £700-£1,200 per calendar month with at least half of the units meeting the London Living Rent criteria. Individuals hoping to get their hands on one of the spaces will be eligible if they fall into the pre-determined salary bracket, and it promises to cap rental prices.

There are currently two prototype flats in the U+I offices in Victoria, designed by architect Ab Rogers and designer Manser Practice. Richard Upon, deputy chief executive of U+I believes it’s a viable solution to the rental crisis.

‘For a new generation of workers in the middle, often working centrally, living in the middle of London has long been a dream,’ he said.

‘Ideally we would like to develop these sites in association with public sector bodies who have unused land. This could bring additional social benefit to the public sector by generating much needed revenue from the rental income, while retaining ownership of their assets.’

The spaces are only available to rent, and cannot be bought and resold. The aim is to create five blocks in nine London boroughs which could provide up to 4,770 more homes, according to think tank Development Economics.

The ‘micro-flats’ do look, well, micro, and from the video proposal it looks very much like an office with living quarters – but with many key city workers and young professionals valuing location over physical space, could this be the future of London living?

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