British Housing

British homes are the smallest in Europe, with only an average usable floor space of 76m sq. The Italians lead the rest of Europe with the most space – an average of 92m sq per dwelling, over a fifth larger than us Brits enjoy. A report undertaken by the Centre for Economics & Business Research compares the UK property market to Germany, France, Italy and Spain. It reveals British living space per home is 12 percent smaller than the average Spanish home, 14 percent smaller than in Germany and 16 percent smaller than in France. Moreover, the gap between the UK and the continent is widening with new homes in France, Germany and Spain getting bigger. On average, newly built homes in France and Germany have over 100m2 of usable floor space, while in Spain modern homes have 95m2. In Britain, new homes remain the same size as existing properties at 76m2.

These figures are more surprising when the types of properties are taken into account as over four-fifths of British households prefer to live in a house. The report reveals that 82 percent of British families live in a house and only 15 percent live in a flat. This is in stark contrast to families on continental Europe where flats are more popular. In Spain, Italy and Germany more than 50 percent of families live in a flat and France is not far behind with 41 percent. Yet almost bizarrely the average British family home has the least usable living space of the countries surveyed.

Despite the widely held perception to the contrary, Britons aren’t Europe’s most prolific homeowners. The Spanish (80%) own more of their homes than the Brits and Italians (69%). The French (54%) and Germans (43%) own less. Despite the right to buy initiatives of the Thatcher governments, Britain still has the greatest proportion of ‘social housing’ (council or housing association dwellings) in Western Europe at 22%. France has the second highest provision of social housing with 18% living in social owned homes. Spain barely has a social sector at all with only 1%. Compared to our counterparts on the continent, the UK has the least developed rental sector with less than 10% of British homes being rented privately. This contrasts sharply with 46% in Germany – over five times the UK level. This news is surprising given the surge in popularity of buy to let mortgages in the UK.

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