We’ll post some more pictures of the Wellington social housing shortly, but first of all: some news from out of town. Quite a long way out of town in fact (London, actually) but still relevant – especially to the subject of social housing.
New(ish) Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, is a famously Conservative chap with a more than slightly silly appearance and demeanour, possibly not thought to be sympathetic to the many poor and down-trodden in his city. His predecessor, Ken Livingston, was notoriously red and green, in a political sense: but it’s true blue Boris who is proving to be the leader for the lower paid, in a most surprising way.
Johnson has commissioned a London architectural practice Mae to write a guidebook on sizes and standards for London housing – “The London Design Guide“. It’s out for consultation now for the next 6 months, and no doubt will raise plenty of debate: especially as this will set the standard for future social house building in London. It is interesting that the size of the apartments is far larger than what may have been expected: and the Mayor is already getting some criticism that this will push the cost of providing affordable housing further into the deep blue yonder.
So: how does this compare to New Zealand? In Wellington, we have no rules on minimum sizes – Auckland once had the same intent, but due mainly to the appalling response from developers and architects alike, has since implemented a minimum of 35m2 for a Studio and 45m2 for a minimum one bed flat. Notoriously, and I believe shamefully, Wellington is still hiding behind the out-dated mantra of ‘the market knows best’ and has no minimum sizes: you can propose any size dwelling you want. I’d argue that is only going to mandate mediocrity and permit pig-pens. In Wellington, some pretty dodgy developers and their low-ranking architects have proposed rooms as small as 27m2, while in Auckland (before the lock-in) some of the flats were even smaller than 20m2.
So how does this compare this to London’s proposed minimum standards?
The answer is that in London they are proposing something considerably higher: a one bedroom (therefore two person) flat to attain a minimum size of 50m2, while that of a two bedroom flat to have minimum sizes of 61 to 70m2. Those are nice, rationale, comfortable sizes to live in. And it’s not just bare figures that they have come up with either. I recommend all architects out there (especially those undertaking social housing in Wellington) to download and read the full (89 page) document, as well as the planners at the WCC – but to speed up the process, it’s also worth taking a peek right here at some of the room planning standards they are looking at. It shows that the numbers on sizing have not just been pulled out of thin air, but instead are based on some solid research, and quite reasonable dimensions. Here is the bedroom, the bathroom, and the living room presented as minimum standards:
Auckland’s minimum space standards indicate 9.0m2 is adequate for a bedroom.
Whereas Auckland allows only 3.0m2 for a bathroom and 11.0 / 15.0 / 24.0m2 for a Living room (Studio / 1 bed / 2 bed).
There’s no reason of course that minimum sizes in London should have any effect on minimum sizes in New Zealand, except for the small matter of people generally being the same size the world over. The document also notes that even room heights should be larger than what the Poms (or us, for that matter) are used to: a minimum height of 2.6m rising up to a wonderfully comfortable 3.2m dependent on the room depth if the design involves single aspect rooms.
This post is getting to be quite long, but it seems to be important to me: so I’ll go on. In 89 pages there are of course a lot more, including discussion on Noise, Sunlight, Energy/Co2, Water Use, Car and Cycle storage (even though Londoners have far less cars than us Kiwis): but in the mean time let’s just have a look at the kitchen and the outdoor space: certainly puts our local Design Guides to shame.
Auckland’s minimum standards indicate minimum sizes of 5.1, 10.8, 13.2m2 for the Kitchen (Studio / 1 bed / 2 bed) whereas even the outdoor area is 5.0m2 in both London and Auckland – and a big fat minimum 0.0m2 for Wellington’s inner city (Wellington stipulates a minimum outdoor area size for Residential zones, but none for the Central area).
Let’s hope that these standards get taken seriously and debated at WCC, as well as by the architectural community. Perhaps the first place to start is to look at how the recently announced social housing projects compare.