Overcrowded housing (England) - Commons Library Standard Note

Published 28 April 2014 | Standard notes SN01013

Authors: Wendy Wilson

Topic: Housing, Housing supply, Overcrowding, Private rented housing, Social rented housing

The statutory overcrowding standard in Part X of the 1985 Housing Act has not been updated since 1935. The standard is used, for example, to assess whether residential accommodation is overcrowded to the extent that it might give rise to a re-housing duty on behalf of a local authority.

The previous Labour Government accepted that the statutory standard was “no longer defensible in a modern society.” Government amendments to the 2004 Housing Act provided for the standard to be amended by secondary legislation – the necessary secondary legislation has not been introduced. In December 2007 the Labour Government published an action plan to tackle overcrowding. As part of this plan a new standard of overcrowding was piloted in 38 local authorities alongside various other initiatives. The then Government said that evidence from the pathfinder areas would be considered before the statutory standard would be updated by legislation.

The Coalition Government issued a consultation paper, Local decisions: a fairer future for social housing, on 30 November 2010 with a closing date of 17 January 2011. In section 7 of this paper the Government said it was “seeking views on the reforms needed to enable local authorities and social landlords to tackle overcrowding.” Subsequently, the Localism Act 2011 gave these landlords various tools aimed at assisting them in tackling overcrowded housing. The introduction of the under-occupation deduction from Housing Benefit for claimants in social housing has, the Government argues, provided an added incentive for tenants to downsize thus freeing up properties for overcrowded families.

This note explains the current standard in England, efforts to update the standard, and the Government’s approach to tackling the problem.

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