Tuesday, 12 February 2008

Size Matters In Dovecot Towers

Despite what I may have written here, something (well, one thing; just one thing mind) is not too bad in Dovecot Towers. Compared to some, my flat is not that small. But when I say not too small, mind you, please be aware that everything is relative and ‘not too small’ in an urban newbuild is like being slightly taller than the average pygmy.

The size of newbuilds is one dimension where the absolute nadir was reached a few years ago, when ravenous, rampaging, ruinous greed on the part of developers, landlords and estate agents (let’s hear it for the estate agents!) was all powerful, and when, on seeing those minuscule apartments, no one dared to say: ‘Hang on – that’s just too small for a fully sized human, with a life!’ I’ve seen rooms that could have been a film set for Honey I Shrunk The Tenants (those teensy little actors would have been so cute!)

So just how big is big enough? I once stayed in a newbuild student flat, of the type creeping along urban roads nationwide. It was tiny, and contained a very narrow single bed, an en suite bathroom that would have fitted easily into the confines of a space capsule, a desk, a really little wardrobe (no other storage) and a shelf. I suppose the theory is that students are off inventing things, cramming facts in the library or getting pissed, and so space is a useless superfluity, albeit an expensive one.

Another flat I saw even made the landlord blush. Tenants could sway to one side to make a cuppa in the kitchen, whilst simultaneously opening the lounge window using their free hand to direct obscene hand gestures at people on the street below, without bothering to stand up. The ‘balcony’ was a narrow ledge with a railing; even a paper person would have trouble squeezing outside. ‘I know,’ admitted the landlord as he showed me round. ‘That’s why it’s ten pounds cheaper.’
As with all these flats, the bathroom was massive in comparison. I had visions of dinner parties held in the tub.

Around two years ago, developers apparently saw sense, possibly at the behest of buy to let landlords, who were having trouble filling investment flats. Since then, some flats have been getting slightly larger, with a more generous space. Keep in mind, however that by generous, I mean an extra metre, which isn’t that much when cramming in all your worldly goods. Honestly, is the cost of an extra ten feet worth of bricks and concrete really prohibitively expensive?

City flats will never be the size of country houses, and nobody expects a cavernous, yawning barn with our precious furniture placed awkwardly in the middle, forcing tenants to conduct shouty conversations with megaphones, due to the vast distance between us. We’d like: enough room for: two x three seater sofas (one to expand into a sofa bed), a dining table with chairs, and space for collectibles. Is that too much to ask? Or is a mad scientist going to come and shrink us all with special magic ray-gun, so we can fit inside?


Anonymous said...

City centre living started spacious - the loft style living for example. Its the greedy developers that know a money making scam when they see it and started cramming people in like battery hens.

I actually think these blocks will come down in twenty/thirty years time - like the post was high rises that came before them - and the whole charade will start again.

Social housing isn't an option - its bad enough managing a single high rise block on a mixed property-type estate what with the ASB problems and all. The idea of filling those city centre flats with people 'in housing need' brings me out in a rash!

RenterGirl said...

Social Housing would take a determined management company, but Dovecot Towers is now exclusively buy to let. Swathes of Britain are compulsorily purchased when paving Britain's countryside for roads/airports. Why not for social housing?
Actually, what am I saying? You're right. I genuinely agree that they will be demolished within 20 years. But in the meantime...