Distribution of Housing

In many local authorities, and indeed nationally, there is enough housing for everyone that needs it. The issue is that it’s unevenly distributed. Analysis of the 2015 English Housing Survey showed that there were 54 million people living in households. According to the bedroom standard they would need 37 million bedrooms to be appropriately housed. Instead, the survey showed there were 63 million bedrooms available across the country. That’s enough bedrooms for everyone to have their own with 9 million spare.

Further analysis using the 2011 Census and presented in the table opposite shows that all regions except London have more bedrooms than household residents. Some of those ‘excess’ bedrooms will be in truly vacant and unused homes but much of it will reflect second homes or spare bedrooms. The under-occupation of housing is a growing issue as the population ages and children leave the family home. The chart below shows that 53% of owner-occupier households are under-occupying their home compared to just 10% of social rented households.

The distribution of housing can be measured in more than just homes or bedrooms. For example, the amount of floor area available per dwelling, household, or person is another approach.

Unfortunately, there is no simple solution to the uneven distribution of housing. Some unused housing is in the wrong location, too far from employment opportunities. Much of the under-used housing is held by older generations still living in family homes long after their children have left. Any suggestion of forcing these people out of homes they own presents severe political, not to say moral, challenges and there are still too few affordable and appropriate options to encourage potential downsizers. The distribution of housing should clearly be considered in the context of the existing stock and new supply but is unlikely to provide a substantial solution to other housing issues any time soon.

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