More than 8 million people in England living in unsuitable housing


More than 8 million people, equivalent to the population of London, are living in unsuitable housing in England, according to analysis suggesting the scale of the housing crisis could be far worse than officially estimated.

Research by Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh suggests the lives of one in eight people in England are now negatively affected by years of fast-rising prices and missed house-building targets.

The research shows that 3.6 million people are living in overcrowded homes, 2.5 million cannot properly afford where they live, the same number again are living with parents or relatives against their wishes and almost 1.4 million are living in poor or substandard conditions, according to the study commissioned by the National Housing Federation (NHF), which represents social landlords.

It adds up to almost twice the number of people currently considered to be in need of housing on official waiting lists.

The needy include couples forced to cohabit despite a relationship breakdown and “boomerang” adults who return to their parents because they cannot afford to buy or rent or have been made homeless. The NHF said England needed 340,000 new homes a year to tackle the problem, but the last time that had happened was in 1968 during Harold Wilson’s premiership. In the year to March 2019, 169,770 new homes were built in England.

“Today’s research reveals the full enormity of the housing crisis,” said Kate Henderson, the chief executive of the NHF. “It is the single biggest domestic issue we face. From Cornwall to Cumbria, millions of people are being pushed into debt and poverty because rent is too expensive, children can’t study because they have no space in their overcrowded homes, and many older or disabled people are struggling to move around their own home because it’s unsuitable.”

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Campaigners are struggling to keep housing high on political agendas before a likely general election. Town hall leaders said the research showed that new powers and funding for councils to build more social housing should be included in next month’s Queen’s speech. But hopes are modest that Boris Johnson’s government will be radical after he listed housing far beneath other domestic priorities in his first speech as prime minister.

The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government responded that housing was a priority and said: “Last year we built more homes than in all but one of the last 31 years.” However that was only true for England, and across the UK the latest figures for 2017-18 show that eight years since 1987 had higher output.

Only one in six new homes being built are affordable homes for rent, despite it being the market sector the majority of analysts believe is in most need of urgent supply.

The ministry said 2,440 council houses had been built between 2010-11 and 2017-18, an increase on the New Labour output but a drop in the ocean compared to the NHF’s estimate that 90,000 new council homes are needed every year for the next decade to help end the crisis.

A housing ministry spokesperson said: “Since 2010 we’ve delivered 430,000 affordable homes and to protect renters we’ve cracked down on rogue landlords, banned unfair fees and capped deposits, saving at least £240m a year – helping to ensure access to safe and secure housing for millions.”

Responding for Labour, the former housing minister John Healey said that “deep cuts to housing investment since 2010 mean the country is now building 30,000 fewer social rented homes each year than we were with Labour.”

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He claimed a Labour government would build a million low-cost homes over ten years, “give renters the rights they deserve and end rough sleeping within five years”.



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