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Internal housing space standards in Italy and England

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This monograph reports on a study comparing the regulation of internal housing space in Italy – since the introduction of broad, generic standards in 1975 – and in England, where there are no universal rules governing internal space. After tracing the evolution of standards in both countries from public health legislation in the late 19th century to specific building and urban codes in Italy today, and a range of standards applied to some social housing in England, it outlines the space characteristics of homes in the two countries, before drawing on a series on interviews with key built environment professionals in the cities of Turin and Manchester, to unpack the ‘conditions’ of space standard regulation in both countries. The purpose of the study has been to explore the politics, practicalities, acceptability and impact of internal space regulation in Italy and England, and to ask why regulatory standards in Italy seem more palatable than they are in England and Wales: the only remaining part of the EU where legal minimum space standard for residential development remain absent. Discussion also centres on how regulatory approaches to delivering housing quality compare with approaches based on local negotiation through planning, and how these are situated in the context of different market drivers, lending and planning cultures. Moving to a regulatory approach in England (with fixed space standards) may be problematic given that such a move would not address the market fundamentals – speculative production and investment consumption – that, alongside land supply constraints, determine the amount of space in homes. In this context, a more effective strategy might be to expose home buyers to more information on internal space, thus influencing market behaviour and thereafter, the types of homes built to supply future demand.

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