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Housing crisis leading to overcrowded living conditions

Words: Laura Edgar
POCA used to reclaim illegal rental earnings / Shutterstock_253769623

There are 130,000 families in England squeezing into one-bedroom flats, new research has found.

This equates to around 1.3 million children from more than 600,000 families.

The research, by the National Housing Federation (NHF), highlights that overcrowding in England has reached record levels, with approximately 96,000 more children living in such conditions than 10 years ago.

The federation explains that homes are considered overcrowded if a child has to share a bedroom with two or more other children, sleep in the same room as their parent or share with a teenager of the opposite sex.

This research follows a report published on 21 August by the Children’s Commissioner for England. It found that there is an estimated 210,000 children in England that are homeless. This includes children that are sofa surfing.

The NHF research includes a poll that was carried out by ComRess. It found:

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

A lack of housing in England is the main cause of overcrowding, in particular, a lack of social housing. The country needs around 145,000 new social homes every year, including 90,000 for social rent, the NHF said. Last year only 6,000 social-rented homes were built, due to "sharp government cuts" to funding for new social housing in 2010.

As well as overcrowding and a lack of social housing, rough sleeping has increased by 165 per cent since 2010, while the number of households in temporary accommodation is at its highest for 10 years. In addition, more people are being pushed into expensive and insecure private renting, while others are living at home with their parents.

Successive governments have failed

Kate Henderson, chief executive of the NHF, 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.”

The federation said the cash investment 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.

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