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130,000 families forced to live in one-bed flats

Written by: Emma Lunn
A shortage of homes is forcing 130,000 families in England to squeeze into one-bedroom flats, according to the National Housing Federation (NHF).

The NHF – which represents housing associations in England – found that more than one in 10 children in England are living in overcrowded homes. This comes to a total of around 1.3 million children from more than 600,000 families.

Overcrowding in England has now reached record levels, as about 96,000 more children are living in overcrowded homes compared to a decade ago.

Homes are said to be ‘overcrowded’ if a child has to share their bedroom with two or more other children, sleep in the same room as their parents, or share with a teenager of the opposite sex.

The report also found that just under half of children in overcrowded homes are forced to share a bedroom with their parents, with more than a quarter sharing a bed with a parent or sibling.

More than a quarter of parents in overcrowded homes are forced to sleep in kitchens, bathrooms or hallways because of the lack of space.

The NHF says the main cause of overcrowding is the lack of housing in England, especially social housing, which means growing families have nowhere affordable to move to.

The country needs about 145,000 new social homes every year, including 90,000 for social rent. But last year only 6,000 social-rented homes were built, as a result of government cuts to funding for new social housing in 2010.

As well as overcrowding, the current shortage of social housing is having a serious impact on millions of people’s lives. Rough sleeping has increased by 165 per cent since 2010, while the number of households in temporary accommodation is at a 10-year high.

The NHF is calling on the government to invest £12.8bn every year for the next decade in building new social homes, bringing spending levels back to those last seen under Churchill’s government in the early 1950s. This would effectively end the housing crisis, kick starting a nationwide housebuilding boom of around 145,000 new social homes to rent and shared ownership properties to buy every year.

Kate Henderson, NHF chief executive, said: “This research shows yet another devastating impact of the broken housing market. All across the country, whole families squeeze into one-bedroom flats, children sleep three to a bed, and parents are forced to spend their night in the kitchen or a hallway.

“This is having a huge impact on more than a million children, seriously affecting their start in life. For decades, successive governments have failed to invest in social housing, and families are paying the price.

Darren Baxter, housing policy and partnerships manager at the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, said: “The cost of housing means that for many families, work does not bring enough money to provide a decent life and the kind of childhood we all want for our children. Poverty doesn’t just mean that families can’t access the housing they need, but it can affect health, education and life chances in ways that can last decades.

“A home should be an anchor against being swept into poverty but for parents bringing up children in overcrowded conditions it adds an extra strain. This can be fixed if we invest in building the low cost rented homes which low income families rely on and which can be their stepping stone to a better life.”

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