Response - Tackling Overcrowding in England

By: Daniel Martin  Published: September 2006


The DCLG has issued a discussion paper inviting responses to proposals to tackle the problem of overcrowded housing in England. This document is Shelter's response.

Summary

We are pleased that the government is now acting to utilise the power created by the Housing Act 2004 to amend the overcrowding standards and that it is looking to seriously address the growing problem of overcrowding.  We welcome the opportunity to provide our thoughts on this subject. 

The existing statutory standards for overcrowding have remained unchanged since their introduction in 1935 in response to the need to improve the slum living conditions of the inter-war period.  As a result, they fail to reflect a modern understanding of what is acceptable in terms of living arrangements, counting living rooms as bedrooms and assuming that it is unnecessary for couples to be able to share a room. The result is that households, particularly families with children, must endure very high levels of overcrowding before the statutory threshold is breached.  

Every day our advice workers see clients who experience the trauma of overcrowding. Often due to the pressures on larger social housing there is little that advisors can do to assist these clients except desperately scan allocation policies in the hope of finding a way too gain the client some extra priority.

Without doubt the main method for addressing the levels of overcrowding in England can only be an increased supply of larger homes but there is an important role for other initiatives such as making better use of the existing stock, shared equity schemes and widening of options for overcrowded families. 

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