Rise of overcrowding in rental sectors points to greater need for social housing

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SOCIAL housing has never been more over-crowded, according to the English Housing Survey (EHS), while in the private rented sector the squeeze on space has reached a 20-year high.

Overall overcrowding has risen from 2.8% in 2008-09 to 3.4% in 2018-19; that’s approximately 788,000 households living in overcrowded conditions. Most of them rent their home, as only 1% of owner occupiers (187,000 households) experienced over-crowding last year.

In the social sector, overcrowding in 2018-19 was at its highest since 1995-96 with 8% of households (318,000) experiencing such conditions. This was up from 5% in 1998-99. Back in 2010-11, over-crowding in the sector reached 7% before dropping to 6% the following year. It went back up to 7% in 2015-16, and then began increasing to its current level in 2016-17.

For people renting in the private sector, 6% of households (283,000) were living in over-crowded conditions, up from 3% in 1998-99.

The figures further emphases the need for more social housing, according to the charity Shelter.

“As the supply of new social homes grinds to a halt, we’ve seen an explosion in the number of people living in overcrowded private rentals,” said Polly Neate, the charity’s chief executive. “More and more families are crammed like sardines into homes that are too small for them because they can’t afford to rent anywhere bigger.

“The odds are stacked against struggling families. What this country desperately needs is an alternative to private renting, which is why Shelter is urging the Government to build a new generation of genuinely affordable social homes. These homes would finally give people the chance of a decent place to live where they can plan for their future.”

When it comes to under-occupying a home, in the social sector it has decreased from 12% to 8% between 1998-99 and 2018-19. In the private rented sector, it has gone down from 20% to 14%. However, it has increased among owner-occupiers over the same period, rising from 42% to 52%.

More generally, other headlines findings from the EHS, which was published this month, include:

  • Of the estimated 23.5 million households in England, 15 million (64%) were owner occupiers, down from its 2003 peak of 71% and essentially unchanged since 2013-14
  • In 2018-19, the private rented sector accounted for 4.6 million or 19% of households. While the sector has doubled in size since 2002, the rate has hovered around 19/20% since 2013-14
  • The social rented sector, at 4 million households (17%), remained the smallest tenure, following a long downward trend which has stabilised over the last decade or so. However, the composition of the sector has changed in recent years. In 2008-09, the sector accounted for 18% of households with 9% (2 million) renting from housing associations and 9% (1.9 million) renting from local authorities. In 2018-19, 10% (2.4 million) rented from housing associations, 7% (1.6 million) from local authorities
  • After more than a decade of decline, the proportion of 25-34-year olds in owner-occupation has increased and there are now almost equal proportions of 25-34-year olds living in the private rented and owner-occupied sectors. In 2018-19, 41% of those aged 25-34 lived in the private rented sector; a further 41% were owner occupiers
  • Over the last decade, the proportion of people aged 55-64 living in the rented sectors has increased. In 2018-19, 10% of 55-64-year olds lived in the private rented sector, up from 7% in 2008-09. Over the same period, the proportion of 55-64-year olds in the social rented sector increased from 14% to 17%. Meanwhile, the proportion of 55-64-year olds that were owner occupiers decreased from 79% to 73%

Responding to the figures, the Labour Party’s shadow housing secretary, John Healey MP, said: “The Conservatives didn’t want to talk about housing ahead of the general election and the Government’s own statistics show why.

“These figures confirm that the number of younger homeowners has fallen dramatically since 2010, with over 800,000 fewer households under 45 now owning their own home, and the number of recent first-time buyers is falling.

“Meanwhile, over a million more households are renting from a private landlord than a decade ago, including one in four families with children.

“After 10 years of failure on housing, Conservative Ministers have not built the council and social homes needed, given renters the rights they deserve and helped young people on ordinary incomes buy their first home. Labour will not let the Tories get away with having no plan to fix the country’s housing crisis.”

The Residential Landlords Association (RLA) said the figures showed that private renters are enjoying greater security in their homes than at any time over the last decade, with the average length that a tenant remained in a property being at its highest in a decade. In the last year, the average was 4.4 years, up from 4.1 years in 2017-18.

“The vast majority of landlords who do a good job welcome good tenants staying in their properties long-term and today’s figures bear this out,” said John Stewart, the RLA’s policy manager. “They clearly refute the picture some create that landlords spend all their time looking for ways to evict their tenants and it is time to end this scaremongering.

“The market is meeting the ever-changing demands on it without the need for legislation. It is vital that the Government continues to support and encourage this with pro-growth policies that support good landlords to provide the long-term homes to rent to meet ever growing demand.”



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