A telltale sign of the shrinking size of homes is the boom in self-storage units. There are an estimated 750 sites across Britain, with an extra 2 million sq ft added in the past year.
Instead of being located in out-of-town industrial estates, storage warehouses are sprouting up in convenient city-centre areas and have round-the-clock access.
'When you live in a flat, you don’t have a garden or attic space for bulky items such as skis or bikes so external storage space is a great convenience'
The first private storage facility that is part of a new housing scheme has opened at New South Quarter, Croydon, where Barratt is building 800 homes, a nursery school, medical centre, small business accommodation and corner shops.
Here, Access Self Storage, one the country’s biggest operators, has a 50,000 sq ft warehouse where householders can rent units, ranging from the size of a double wardrobe to a three-bedroom house.
“When you live in an apartment, you don’t have a garden, shed, cellar or attic space for bulky items such as skis, golf clubs or bikes so external storage space is a great convenience,” says Nick Fenton, Barratt’s managing director. “Residents can have all their belongings to hand and avoid cluttering their home.”
Decluttering junk rooms to rent out during the recession has also prompted more people to use storage companies, while hiring units for “lifestyle” reasons is on the rise too. “We have quite a few musicians,” according to a spokesman for Safestore.
The great space debate
Critics say developers should build bigger homes or at least provide free storage lockers or cages in underground parking areas or communal corridors. A recent report by the Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment reveals that new flats often have barely enough room for proper furniture, even a microwave.
New flats in the UK are the smallest in Europe, with an average floorspace of 818 sq ft, compared with 1,200 sq ft in France. More than 50 per cent of people living in homes built between 2003 and 2006 said they do not have enough storage space.
London mayor Boris Johnson has lambasted developers for building “rabbit hutch” homes and has proposed minimum space standards of 550 sq ft for one-bedroom flats in the affordable housing sector which he hopes will be embraced by private developers.
Barratt counters that it is already building bigger flats (including 750 sq ft apartments with enclosed “winter garden” balconies at Dalston Square in east London). Developer Mount Anvil charges £2,500 for lockers at a development called This Space in Wandsworth, where flats are priced from £220,000. Call 020 7409 8756.
A new home for your clutter
Colin Hall, a merchandiser for a fashion company based in Paddington, is waiting to move into a two-bedroom (800 sq ft) apartment at New South Quarter he bought off-plan for £242,000.
Since November, when he had to move out of his rented flat, he has been staying with a friend and has put his possessions into the Access storage centre.
He says the new apartment is an adequate size for his needs but he will continue to use a storage unit for stuff like Christmas decorations and suitcases. “And moving in should be easy because it is all onsite."
Wandle River passes through the development, formerly a gas works on Purley Way, and an adjacent park is being upgraded.
Low-rise apartment blocks are grouped around courtyards and gardens. Prices start at £174,995. Call 020 8688 0688.