• 7.7 million households in England (one in three) experience at least one housing problem and around one million households (13%) experience multiple housing problems.

This diagram shows the number of households experiencing one or more housing problems in England. The housing problems considered are affordability, overcrowding and whether the home is classed as non-decent.

Non-decent homes are those with a hazard of immediate threat to a person’s health, not in a reasonable state of repair, that are lacking modern facilities or not effectively insulated or heated. Overcrowding is defined as having more people in a household than there are appropriate rooms based on age, sex and the relationship status of the occupants. Housing is classed as unaffordable if the household is spending more than a third of their household income (net housing benefit) on household costs.

Each of these housing problems can influence health separately. Non-decent homes include problems such as damp and cold, which can harm health directly. Overcrowding and poor affordability can influence mental health and act as a source of stress. Experiencing more than one of these problems risks further harm to health.

The number of households in England that experience at least one housing problem is 7.7 million and 13% of these households experience multiple housing problems (around one million households). The most common combination of these problems is paying more than a third of the household income on housing for a non-decent home – 700,000 households were in this position in 2016/17, when the data are available. There are 100,000 households living in non-decent and overcrowded homes, and overcrowded homes that are relatively expensive. A small number of households – around 40,000 – experience all three problems.

The chart shows that overcrowded housing is the least common problem to have in England, although those living in overcrowded households are most likely to experience multiple housing problems. A total of 43% of overcrowded homes have at least one other problem, while 20% of non-decent and 23% of unaffordable houses experience additional issues.

A large number of households in England experience at least one housing problem, underlining the extent of the problem. There are around one million households with more than one risk to their health that could be prioritised for intervention. Overcrowded households are the most likely to experience additional housing problems.

  • Non-decent homes are defined as those with a Category 1 hazard – as assessed by the Housing Health and Safety Rating System (HHSRS) – that are not in a reasonable state of repair, lack reasonably modern facilities or do not provide a reasonable degree of thermal comfort.
  • Overcrowding is measured by comparing household members against a bedroom standard. This standard allows for rooms based on the relationship status of adults in the household, and the age and sex of the children.
  • Unaffordable housing is where more than a third (33%) of household income (net housing benefit) is spent on housing costs.

Source: Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government, English Housing Survey, 2016/17

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