• Most households in the bottom 20% of the income distribution have at least one housing problem.
    Households that are headed by someone from an ethnic minority or a younger adult are also most likely to have at least one housing problem. 

This chart examines the likelihood of experiencing one or more housing problems by age, ethnicity and income. The household problems considered are non-decent homes, overcrowding and affordability problems.

Non-decent homes are those with a hazard of immediate threat to a person’s health, not in reasonable state of repair, lacking modern facilities or not effectively insulated or heated. An overcrowded household is defined as having more people 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 household income (net housing benefit) on household costs.

Each of these housing problems can influence health. Non-decent homes include problems such as damp and cold, which can directly harm a person’s health. 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 a person’s health.


A significantly higher proportion of households in the bottom 20% of the income distribution have one or more housing problems (70%) compared with those in the second lowest income quintile (40%).

A total of 16% of households in the lowest income quintile experience multiple housing problems compared with 2% for all other income quintiles.


Just under half those from minority ethnic backgrounds are more likely to experience a housing problem, compared with 31% of those of white ethnicity. Households headed by those from minority ethnic backgrounds are also more than twice as likely to experience two or more housing problems.


The age group most likely to experience housing problems are 16–29 year olds (45%), compared with 25% of those older than 65 years. The 16–29 year old age group is also most likely to be renting, and those with renting tenures are more likely to experience multiple housing problems. 

Housing problems, and particularly households experiencing multiple housing problems, are unequally distributed across society. Those people that are disadvantaged in relation to housing are likely to be disadvantaged in other areas, such as income, as well.

  • 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

Related analysis


Number of households experiencing multiple housing problems


Around one million households experience more than one housing problem, most commonly non-decent...


Inequalities in households experiencing one or more housing problems by region


The most urbanised regions – London, the West Midlands, and the North West – have the highest...


Relationship between health and number of housing problems


Having multiple housing problems is associated with poor self-rated health.

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