Did you know that the word bungalow is a throwback to Britain’s Colonial past? The bungalow came into the English language in the late 17th century from the Hindi word bangla, meaning belonging to Bengal. The word was used to describe the type of cottage built for early European settlers and traders in eastern India. The term has since spread around the world to generally mean a wide single-storey house, possibly with rooms built into the roof, and sometimes surrounded by a verandah – another Hindi word.
In the UK recent research by the online estate agent House Simple has revealed a sharp decline in the number of bungalow properties on the market. The survey showed that only 7% of houses for sale across the country were bungalows, and that in almost three quarters of towns and cities bungalows accounted for less than 10% of the houses available. Other data from the National House Building Council reveals that in 2016 only 2,210 bungalows were built across the country, compared with 26,406 in 1986.
In some areas the situation is even more acute. London, where bungalows made up 0.9% of properties for sale, Aberdeen with 1.4%, Portsmouth with 2%, Oxford with 2.2% and Cambridge with 2.5% are at one end of the scale. Other places more associated with a retired population lie at the other end – Worthing for example showed that 24.1% of its housing stock for sale were bungalows, followed by Bournemouth with 21.9%. Closer to home, the Herts Advertiser claimed that 8.5% of properties on the market in St Albans were bungalows, but only 2.3% in Hatfield.
Building a new bungalow on a plot is likely to offer much lower returns for a builder. Conversely, existing bungalows may have been occupied by elderly owners for many years and often require modernisation. In this instance it is much more profitable for a developer to demolish the bungalow and replace it with a new, larger family house on the same plot.
Does any of this matter? In terms of the UK’ ageing population it certainly does. Bungalows have traditionally met a specific housing need for those who are less physically mobile, or those who simply wish to down-size to a more manageable property. Historically, the older generation could happily look after themselves in a bungalow property for many years as they became less and less physically fit. However, with fewer bungalows being built and the existing stock declining in numbers the older generation will have nowhere to go, leading inevitably to yet more pressure on the care home sector and the NHS. Without financial incentives developers are likely to build fewer bungalows in the future, turning today’s local problem into a full-blown national crisis.
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