William Eichler 19 February 2020

Housing overcrowding in London at ‘40-year high’

Housing overcrowding in London at ‘40-year high’ image

Overcrowding in housing in parts of London and the South East of England is worse now than at any other period over the last four decades, research reveals.

A new study by Professor Christopher Lloyd of Queen’s University Belfast has found that between 1971 and 2011, overcrowding increased in 31% of neighbourhoods in London.

It also discovered that in 33% of neighbourhoods in London the number of homes available per person was smaller in 2017 than at any time since at least 1991.

Working with James Gleeson from the Greater London Authority, the pair studied census data as well as administrative data to explore the scale of the housing problem.

Previous research had focused solely on local authority levels rather than small areas of England.

‘The housing crisis remains high on the agenda for the UK Government,’ Professor Lloyd said.

‘There are numerous studies which show increased overcrowding in local authorities across England but our work shows that growing housing pressures are even more profound at a neighbourhood-level and a truly local perspective is essential to properly understand the impacts of these pressures.’

The research, which was funded by the Economic and Social Research Council, showed that at a national level growth in the number of houses in England between 2001 and 2011 outpaced population growth.

However, in London the population grew faster than the housing stock, with the most noticeable increase in overcrowding taking place between 2001 and 2011 in outer London.

The study also found that between 1971 and 2011, the average size of households increased most in parts of London, Birmingham, Bradford and Oldham. Professor Lloyd described the findings as ‘stark’.

‘In England as a whole, the number of dwellings grew 8% between 1991 and 2001, while the number of people grew 4.5%, which indicates that there is actually more space per person in housing,’ he said.

‘However, when we look at the period between 2001 and 2011, both the number of homes and the number of people in England grew by 8%. London stands out as the only region where overall growth in people outpaced growth in dwellings but in every other region there were some neighbourhoods where housing growth failed to keep up with growth in the population.’

‘We argue that policy makers should account for information on local-level changes in housing to identify priority areas where housing demand has grown year-on-year and where need is greatest,’ he added.

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