Bungalows

The term bungalow is a north Indian word meaning "Bengali style house". Traditionally such houses have four essential features. They are detached, they are for single family occupancy, they have a veranda and they are single story. A rather pleasant list of attributes to facilitate a comfortable life, and no doubt suitable for older people needing to live on one level. Perhaps that is why the secretary of state Eric Pickles says he would like to see us build more bungalows.

 

Bungalows however cost more to build than other forms of housing due to the expensive elements, the floor and roof are greater in proportion to the dwelling size. They are built to lower densities of development especially where they are detached. Single family occupation can in practice mean a single person and while a veranda may be used in the southern states of America or Bangladesh in Britain less so?

 

We are struggling with a chronic housing shortage that sees too few new homes built and a large number of people without any kind of home.  Bungalows are the very last form of development that we should be encouraging to be built. We need greater densities of housing. Detached and low rise dwellings are wholly inappropriate.

 

Low density, low rise works in Australia and the States but in Britain we have rejected the suburban sprawl associated with this form of development.

 

What we need is anything but bungalows. We need a planning presumption that any replacement dwelling should be two story or more to enable more efficient land use. Many bungalows in Britain were built at a time when building materials were in short supply. Many are substandard and could be replaced. They are precisely the dwellings at low existing use values that often occupy large plots that are ripe for redevelopment at higher densities offering more people much needed new homes. A call for more bungalows is a call to preserve this wasteful and unwelcome land use.

 

There is no reason why we could not build three story houses divided into garden flat and duplex upper floors with balcony or terrace. This would provide the ground floor accommodation but make use of the upper floors. Indeed there is no reason why those wanting a lateral home should not live in a flat with a lift and communal garden.

 

There can surely be no justification in building expensive land hungry bungalows for single occupation while many families wait for a home. This would be a misuse of scarce resources and an insult to those willing to accept anything to call home. It is time that we became realistic about the kind of homes that we are prepared to provide to the heavily subsidized housing sector. While our philosophy must be to provide a wide range of homes to allow everybody to enjoy a home we must balance this with a realistic assessment of the resources available. 

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