Tuesday, 24 February 2009

Stu-Stu-Studio Flats

The future is here. We’re living there now. Just like Tomorrow’s World predicted, we’re living in pods and eat our food in tablet form. Fully clothed, we enter space-age washing stations for a fast drying hose down, and float to work on hover-boots.

Actually, only the pod part is correct. I’ve been researching different cities online. Everywhere has a similar, even stereotypical development: it’s a block of bijou, futuristic shells, or super-space-age, designer pads (studio flats, in reality.)

They are proving very hard to let, anyone who imagined that tenants will choose, freely and willingly to live that way long-term are avaricious wishful-thinkers. You can always find a studio flat. They are everywhere. There’s always a vacancy, but I wonder if developers are asking why they are so unpopular, and why the turnover is so rapid.

In telling and related news, I understand that the Irish government, when not trying to haul itself out of that notorious financial mess, has also heroically banned bedsits. I’ve always thought this was an especially miserable way to live: everything crammed into one tiny room, with a shared bathroom on a landing. I realise that finances dictate how others live, but they’ve always struck me as grim and unhygienic: drying clothes in the same room you cook, eat and sleep, is not a good idea.

Studio flats are at least granted a separate bathroom, although I am scanning the ads for a ‘shower-room/kitchen-diner’ because you just know it’s going to happen one day. Some studios are better designed than others, allowing space for vital fittings, like desks, which are compact rather than absent.

Apart from well-placed, well-managed, well-built, well-designed flats and homes, occupiers want room to manoeuvre. Urban newbuilds are small enough as it is, and so the idea that we might actually choose to live in a studio, and not be compelled to move in through desperation and then get the hell out asap is ridiculous.

Compromise is essential. T’s flat was tiny, but well thought out on his part. He didn’t collect music, or books, but had to decide between a cupboard (mmm…cupboards) and installing a dishwasher. The dishwasher ended up in the cupboard. In newbuild studios, everything folds up into the wall or into itself until the whole thing folds up into the developer’s arsehole. It’s like Inspector Gadget goes to IKEA, and it’s not conducive to modern living, happiness, or long term occupancy.

Actually, I’m being too reasonable, aren’t I? I mean seriously, what are these developers thinking: are they stupid, or are they as small as The Borrowers, and assume that everyone else is the same size? That’s the only possible excuse.

Builders have stopped building, and most developers have stopped developing. So: in the meantime, please can architects keep on…architecting? I mean, ask tenants of buy-to-let flats how they want to live. They may well have a checklist, like I do. Close to the top will be separate rooms, and enough space for energetic star-jumps. Or is that just me?


Nick said...

Please tell my local authority. I want to build flats with private bathrooms. The Planning Authority will only allow me to build them if you access the bathroom via the public corridor.

The problem isn't Architects, or Developers, it's Planners. The Planners would say that they only reflect the views of politicians & local residents ..........

RenterGirl said...

Do you mean the bathroom has to be on a communal landing? Seriously?
Any planners out there?

Anonymous said...

Yes. The plans showed access to the bathroom from the living room. The planners said that it would only be acceptable if the access was from the corridor because the accommodation is an HMO, which is considered a scarce resource. If the flat was self contained it would cease to be an HMO.

Another one for you ...... I have just had an application for a Roof Terrace rejected by the Planners. All the neighbours have roof terraces approved, but their properties aren't rented out. Apparently tenants are likely to cause a nuisance to their neighbours, whilst owner occupiers aren't. Official WCC policy.

DrGaz said...

Remember this nonsense from a couple of years ago? "iPad" indeed. How patronising.

RenterGirl said...

Nick - they're trying to keep a house as a house. At some point in the future all the conversions will be reconverted, I suspect.

And Dr Gaz: Ipad. Now I've heard everything. We need space!

MattW said...

I think Architects and Planners should look back at some of the low rise council housing built in the 1940s-60s. If not so aesthetically pleasing, they were solidly built and sometimes quite well laid out with 20+ foot living rooms, balconies (for enjoying the sunshine and drying laundry), a kitchen you can dine in and decent sized bedrooms. Sadly, by the 70s contruction quality and room sizes started to dwindle

It seems as if the mass growth of flats that have sprouted up from the ground in such a short time were truly designed for 1 person in mind - the investor/buy to letter and not so much the tenant or owner-occupier. How about some adequate car parking or for heavens sake - a kitchen that can be closed off from the living area?

RenterGirl said...

That's such a good point. What we need is way of persuading architects/devlopers/whosoever's responsibility it to try and make flats and all homes a little bit more pleasant to view from the outside (and even inside) and they'd be onto a winner. Space, robust, and with people, not profit in mind. Oh those were the days...

the reaper said...

what we need is cheaper land,period.building land prices are a leveraged play on residential house prices at around a 3:1 ratio,ie house prices down 1 %,land prices down 3%.house prices down 20%,land prices down 60%.

a feature of the biggest ponzi scheme in history is that the land became the most expensive part of the majority of developments,way out of kilter with historical norms.

eventually,as population shrinks via migrants moving on,benefits changes,many of these studio flats will be knocked into one.

Anyone who tells you there's a shortage of land or hosuing in this country ,quite simply doesn't have a clue.

the sooner these recent BTLers get burned out of the system the better.

RenterGirl said...

We're going to need bigger bulldozers!

the reaper said...

'We're going to need bigger bulldozers!'

Amen to that!

If I can suggest a starter for ten


What were they thinking?

'I've a good idea,let's build some really pricey shoeboxes then convince people it's a new way of living,ie on top of each other with paper thin walls and hiding places for muggers.'

At least now there will be no point building any more of these monstrosities.

FWIW,I've lived in flats in a few countries eg Switz,Belgium,US etc and I have to say,the build quality in the UK remains the worst by a country mile.

Nick said...

Rentergirl - you can see a photo of the houses at www.pimlico-flats.co.uk & I'll put up some plans. Council official Planning policy is that HMOs are a scarce resource & that permission will NOT be granted to convert them back to family houses.

Affordable housing is in short supply in London.

RenterGirl said...

Nick; an HMO, is in most definitions, a shared house, not a block of bedsits, isn't it? Or a house knocked into flats. HMO's are valuable resources in that case. The roof garden story is bad, but you are suffering for other buy-to-let landlords who may even be based abroad, and do not marshall the behaviour of their tenants. Your story just sounds bizarre, but are you trying to build bedsits?

Nick said...

Originally HMO meant more than 1 dwelling that shared a door to the street, but it's got more complicated with recent legislation (doesn't it always?), & now there are licensable HMOs, registerable HMOs, & just HMOs.

I don't agree that a Landlord is responsible for the behaviour of tenants. If they are to be held responsible for tenants then they should be given some powers over them. I'm not sure anyone wants that in truth.

I would like to build studio flats - in particular I would like to give people private shower & toilet facilities. Unfortunately current Govt policy is that kitchens should be private, but toilets & bathrooms should be shared.

J.C.G. said...


I live in a 50s-built ex-council block and it's a dream. The rooms are bright and spacious, there's a balcony, we have built in cupboards (control yourself, RG!!) and the walls are made out of something so solid it's difficult to bang nails in, so I hardly ever hear my neighbours.

In other innovations, although there are 40-odd flats in the block, there are 4 different entry points, so I only share the communal areas with 10 other flats, rather than the whole building. (So, my key fob will only get me into my corridor, I can't run amok on other flat's landings.) We also have rubbish chutes and lockable gates over the doors in case any of the neighbours do decide to get over-friendly.

In short, it's communal living that respects people's boundaries.

They never had it so good = no kidding!

RenterGirl said...

J.C.G; oh stop taunting me with your alluring talk of cupboards! But: something's gone very wrong, hasn't it? I am posting more about this soon. Something so solid you can't bang nails in? Why, that'll be proper bricks and mortar; how quaint. And...Just. You. Enjoy. Those. Cupboards.

Connor said...

I think it's a shame that so many properties are being completely redeveloped and losing their original features. I live in Nottingham and we have a lot of huge gorgeous old Victorian buildings that have now been converted into studio student flats, as such the houses are unkempt and area has gone to pot because they just don't have any respect for the property or the area they live in.

Re Development is one thing but taking period buildings and trashing them to make a quick buck on cheap accommodation is not in the countries best interests. IMO. :)

the reaper said...

'trashing them to make a quick buck '

if only they were making some money,it might make it somehow more palatable.sadly msot of them are going to lose their shirst and then come begging for a bailout.

J.C.G. said...

I will - I should send pictures really, shouldn't I?!

Or maybe I could organise tours for planners and developers instead?

They probably think our building is really unfashionable and overdue to be ripped down and replaced by a yellow-brick new build (why are they always made out of yellow bricks anyway?!) and of course, it's not perfect - there are mice because of the age of the property and the stairwells could use a lick of paint too.

But never mind that, focus on the cupboards!!