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Housing overcrowding in parts of London and South East England soars to 40-year high

Overcrowding in housing in parts of London and the South East of England is worse now than at any other period in 40 years, according to research by Queen’s University Belfast.

Professor Christopher Lloyd found that between 1971 and 2011, overcrowding increased in 31 per cent of neighbourhoods in London.

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

The research, which was funded by the Economic and Social Research Council, is the first of its kind, delving deeper into how overcrowding and housing space have changed at neighbourhood level over four decades. 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 has focused solely on local authority levels rather than small areas of England.

Professor Lloyd, who is a researcher in Queen’s University’s School of Natural and Built Environment, comments: “The housing crisis remains high on the agenda for the UK government. 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 findings also 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 explains: “By looking at a period of almost 50 years, we made some stark findings about housing in London and South East England.

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

“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 per cent. 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.”

Professor Lloyd adds: “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.”

The full study is available to view here.

Professor Christopher Lloyd
Professor Christopher Lloyd - School of Natural and Built Environment

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