The word ‘bungalow’ evokes images of elderly communities, far removed from lively homes on modern developments. But single storey homes are vital to the housing mix and perhaps we should look at more up-to-date ways of describing them. Daniel Hughes, senior planner at PWA Planning examines the issues.
England needs more bungalows – that’s official. According to housing and planning minister Brandon Lewis more single storey homes are urgently required. The logic is that by enabling late middle-aged and elderly ‘empty nesters’ to downsize to bungalows, greater numbers of larger houses will be freed up for families.
Mr Lewis is concerned that the need for more single storey homes is being overlooked by builders and it isn’t difficult to understand why. Bungalows simply aren’t the most profitable use of a building site because developers can generate far more value from a two or three-storey building.
Putting the bungalow shortage into perspective
The problem is made worse by an increasingly ageing population that will push up demand for bungalows. Projections suggest that by 2021 almost 55 per cent of households will be aged 65-years and over.
However, figures from the National House Building Council do not make encouraging reading. In 2014, just one per cent of new builds in the UK were bungalows – a decrease from seven per cent in 1996.
The government’s response has been to amend guidelines and require council planners to set aside a certain proportion of flats or bungalows for older people. Indeed, our recent experience has included looking at ways that developers can satisfy local planning authorities by including single storey homes in their schemes.
Even so, including bungalows, with the unavoidable stereotypes their name evokes, on a vibrant modern development site could deter some housebuilders in the first place. Just as crucially, parents thinking about moving into a family home with bungalows on the same development could be put off by the possibility of those homes creating the perception of an elderly-looking neighbourhood.
Altering the public image of the bungalow
So what’s the answer? Part of it could lie in changing public attitudes to single storey dwellings by giving them a more appealing, contemporary name.
The word bungalow comes from the Hindi word for Bengal, ‘bangla’, which was used to describe cottages built for early British settlers in India. Like the Raj, bungalow has arguably become a word that belongs in the history books, and could usefully be replaced by a more forward-thinking, 21st century one.
This might involve a national rebranding programme, potentially driven by the government and backed by local planning authorities in partnership with housing developers, architects and planning consultants.
The problem is finding another word that doesn’t have its own connotations. Chalet and villa have been used in the past, but perhaps make a housing development sound more like a holiday park, while the term ‘single-storey home’ is factual, but rather uninspiring.
If you’ve any better ideas on how to rebrand the bungalow, please let us know.