Survey reveals extent of overcrowding in social housing

Children have to share a bedroom with their parents in almost three-quarters of overcrowded families, and one in 10 families in cramped housing have teenagers of the opposite sex who are forced to sleep in the same room.

These are just two of the shocking facts to emerge from a survey on the effects of overcrowding on families in social housing released by Shelter.

The report, Full House?, is published as the charity unveils a billboard campaign at Westminster tube station. It aims to put further pressure on chancellor Gordon Brown to fund more family-sized social rented homes to ease the overcrowding crisis.

The charity warns that if the impact of overcrowding is the same across all types of housing, 268,000 children in England could be sharing a bedroom with their parents, with as many as 72,000 overcrowded teenagers of the opposite sex potentially being forced to sleep in the same room.

The survey also reveals that in over a quarter of overcrowded families in social rented housing, children have to sleep in rooms other than bedrooms such as lounges, dining rooms or kitchens due to a lack of space. This could be equivalent to 98,000 children across the country.

Adam Sampson, director of Shelter, says: “Giving children the space to grow and learn ought to be a realistic expectation in 21st century Britain. Yet today the health, education and future chances of thousands of youngsters are being blighted by cramped conditions that have more in common with the Dickensian era than those of a modern, thriving nation.

“More than a year since legislation was passed making it possible to modernise our antiquated overcrowding laws, the government must urgently publish its proposals for updating them. But most importantly of all, Brown must fund the social rented family-sized homes this country needs to end the misery of overcrowding.”

The report is part of the latest phase of Shelters Million Children Campaign, calling on the chancellor to commit to building 60,000 extra social rented homes in his pre-budget report in November, when a formal response to the Barker Review is expected.

Shelter is calling on members of the public to show their support for More Homes Now! by signing campaign cards before this announcement, so that they can be presented to the chancellor at Number 11.

Shelter is also calling on ministers to urgently update Britains antiquated overcrowding laws – currently dating from the 1930s – to reflect todays understanding of the need for space and privacy.

The survey established that at least one child shares a bedroom with their parents in 74% of overcrowded families and children sleep in rooms other than bedrooms in 27%. 10% of overcrowded families paired teenagers of opposite sexes in the same bedroom.

Nine out of 10 families who responded to Shelters survey also reported that being overcrowded makes it more difficult for their children to study and it harms their children health as it can cause depression, anxiety or stress in the home. BME families are twice as likely to be severely overcrowded.