Overcrowding in social housing the highest since government records began, 24 years ago

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Housing & Regeneration Article

11 March, 2019

The English Housing Survey released their annual report for 2017/18 on the 31 January 2019 and it made interesting reading. The social rented sector had the highest rate of overcrowding, and the lowest rate of under-occupation; both increased between 2016-17 and 2017-18.

The main headline from the survey was that overcrowding was 8 times higher in social housing than in owner-occupier dwellings, this is the highest since government records began 24 years ago, the below quote from the English Housing Survey suggests the disparity between social rented and owner-occupier dwellings:

"In 2017-18, 8% of households in the social rented sector were living in overcrowded accommodation (compared with 6% of households in the private rented sector and 1% of owner occupied households). The proportion of households in the social rented sector living in overcrowded accommodation increased between 2016-17 and 2017-18, from 7% to 8%; the highest its been since 1995-96, when the English Housing Survey started measuring overcrowding."

However there appears to be a bizarre juxtaposition in the report as 10% of homes in the social rented sector were under-occupied (i.e. with two or more spare bedrooms). This has increased between 2016-17 and 2017-18, from 8% to 10%.

So, there appears to be more overcrowding yet also greater under-occupation.

Polly Neate, Chief Executive of Shelter, commented on the survey:

"With the number of renters having risen substantially over the past decade, it's time to start paying attention to the needs of people who rent long term, not just those who have a chance to own.

It would be a mistake to focus on homeownership for the minority at the expense of families left to suffer expensive and insecure private renting.

'To give renters a better deal, the government must make good on its promise to massively increase the number of affordable homes available for ordinary families to rent."

Shelter are currently running a cross-party campaign to increase social housing

Of the estimated 23.2 million dwellings in England, 14.8 million were owner-occupiers (64%); the social rented sector remains the smallest sector with 4 million properties (17%), of those 4 million dwellings 2.4 million are owned by housing associations, this is only a slight upward trend from 2008/09 where this figure was 2 million. However this figure has not changed since 2015/16.

The statistics would show that in recent years the demand for social housing has not waivered yet the amount of social homes being built has stagnated. The 'Bedroom Tax' which was introduced by the Welfare Reform Act 2012 and came into force on 1 April 2013 may have assisted in the current situation of overcrowding. Under the new measures introduced by the government tenants in social housing face having their housing benefit reduced if they have an un-occupied bedroom. This, coupled by the stagnation in wages along with the increase in property prices means there is an increase in demand for social housing.

A link to the English Housing Survey can be found here

For more information contact Joe McCreadie in our Housing & Regeneration department via email or phone on 01772 220 250. Alternatively send any question through to Forbes Solicitors via our online Contact Form.

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