Crowded House: Cramped Living in England's Housing

By: Liam Reynolds  Published: October 2004


In the social housing sector in London, nearly one child in three lives in overcrowded housing, and, among black and minority ethnic (BME) groups, up to one in five households lacks sufficient rooms.

Overcrowding matters because it impacts on all aspects of peoples lives. For children, it means increased risk of infections and a lack of space and privacy, which can affect how they do at school. For parents, it is a barrier to providing positive opportunities for their children and a constant cause of anxiety and depression.

Despite the Governments ambitious target on child poverty, and the raft of measures that are beginning to make an impact, in the last seven years there has been no reduction in the proportion of overcrowded households. In the worst affected areas London and in the social housing sector the proportion of overcrowded households has risen since 1997. Severe overcrowding in London increased by 60 per cent between the 1991 and 2001 Censuses.

The reasons behind this are simple. The number of social-sector homes built seven years ago, in 1996/97, was nearly double the number completed in 2003/04. In addition, the stock of family-sized homes has been reduced under Right to Buy policies while house-price rises have excluded more and more families from suitable, affordable housing in the private sector.

In a country increasingly obsessed with house prices and home improvement, the growing inequality in housing is marginalising a whole section of society, with consequences that are only just beginning to register in the political arena.


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