Back to all papers

Unlocking England’s Hidden Homes


England’s housing crisis is receiving an increasing amount of attention from campaigners, the media and policy-makers, yet the obvious solution to addressing it – building more housing – still faces a range of seemingly intractable barriers. It seems clear that if the government is serious about reaching its target of building 1 million new homes during the current parliament then it will have to explore new ways of providing them which go beyond our current reliance on large-scale development by the private sector.

In this new report, IF argues that a potential source of new homes which has been overlooked in the current debate is those that could be created by subdividing existing large homes into smaller ones. The report estimates that as many as 4.4 million households across England have enough spare living space to create at least one new dwelling that would meet the national space standards if they chose to subdivide it, and these new homes would have the advantage of already being located in established communities which can provide access to jobs, transport and public services.

What makes this concept especially appealing is that many of the people who own these large properties are members of the older generation, who may wish to downsize to a smaller property but are being put off by the thought of having to leave their local community. Encouraging such “downsizing-in-situ” would make better use of our national housing stock and give older homeowners the benefits they would get from downsizing while avoiding most of the costs.

IF calls for the government to make it easier for more people to subdivide large homes into smaller ones by creating a householder permitted development right to subdivide (which would require prior approval instead of planning permission), and also by implementing some suggested tweaks to the tax system which could nudge homeowners towards subdividing.