130,000 families forced to live in one-bed flats, research finds

By agency reporter
August 23, 2019

A severe shortage of homes is forcing 130,000 families in England to squeeze into one-bedroom flats, according to new research from the National Housing Federation (NHF).

The research from the NHF, which represents housing associations in England – not-for-profit landlords to more than six million people – reveals that more than one in ten children in England are living in overcrowded homes. This comes to a total of around 1.3 million children from more than 600,000 families, who are stuck in overcrowded conditions because there is nowhere else for them to live. Overcrowding in England has now reached record levels, as around 96,000 more children are living in overcrowded homes compared to a decade ago.

Homes are said to be ‘overcrowded’ if a child has to share their bedroom with two or more other children, sleep in the same room as their parents, or share with a teenager of the opposite sex.

The new report on overcrowding also includes a poll, carried out by ComRes for the National Housing Federation, showing the living conditions overcrowded families often experience:

  • Just under half of children in overcrowded homes are forced to share a bedroom with their parents – this could affect as many as 627,000 children.
  • In more than a quarter of overcrowded homes, children even have to share a bed with a parent or sibling – this could affect as many as 368,000 children.
  • More than a quarter of parents in overcrowded homes are often forced to sleep in kitchens, bathrooms or hallways because of the lack of space – this could affect as many as 380,000 people.
  • More than half of parents in overcrowded homes worry that their children aren’t coming home because of how overcrowded it is – this could affect as many as 695,000 children.
  • Around half of children in overcrowded homes struggle to do their homework because of the lack of space – this could affect as many as 750,000 children. This includes 14 per cent (as many as 190,000 children) who find it totally impossible.

The main cause of overcrowding is the stark lack of housing in England, especially social housing, which means growing families have nowhere affordable to move to. The country needs around 145,000 new social homes every year, including 90,000 for social rent. Last year only 6,000 social-rented homes were built, as a result of sharp Government cuts to funding for new social housing in 2010.

As well as overcrowding, the current desperate shortage of social housing is having a serious impact on millions of people’s lives. Rough sleeping has increased by 165 per cent since 2010, while the number of households in temporary accommodation is at a ten-year high. Meanwhile, more people are being pushed into expensive and insecure private renting, including 1.3 million children currently growing up in poverty in privately rented homes. Many more people are stuck at home with their parents, unable to build independent lives and start families of their own.

The National Housing Federation is calling on the Government to invest £12.8 billion every year for the next decade in building new social homes, bringing spending levels back to those last seen under Churchill’s government in the early 1950s. This would effectively end the housing crisis, kick starting a nationwide housebuilding boom of around 145,000 new social homes to rent and shared ownership properties to buy every year.

Kate Henderson, Chief Executive of the National Housing Federation, said: “This research shows yet another devastating impact of the broken housing market. All across the country, whole families squeeze into one-bedroom flats, children sleep three to a bed, and parents are forced to spend their night in the kitchen or a hallway.

“This is having a huge impact on more than a million children, seriously affecting their start in life. For decades, successive governments have failed to invest in social housing, and families are paying the price. The only way to fix the problem is by building enough social housing, which requires a radical public spending programme – there is simply no other way. By investing £12.8 billion in affordable housing every year, the Government can finally put an end to the country’s housing problem.”

* National Housing Federation https://www.housing.org.uk/

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