Helen carr university of kent has york 2014
1 / 20

The long history and strange currency of overcrowding standards - PowerPoint PPT Presentation

  • Uploaded on
  • Presentation posted in: General

Helen Carr University of Kent HAS York 2014. The long history and strange currency of overcrowding standards. Legal provocations A short history of overcrowding standards Victorian solutions The Housing Act 1935 New standards in a post-welfare state?

I am the owner, or an agent authorized to act on behalf of the owner, of the copyrighted work described.

Download Presentation

The long history and strange currency of overcrowding standards

An Image/Link below is provided (as is) to download presentation

Download Policy: Content on the Website is provided to you AS IS for your information and personal use and may not be sold / licensed / shared on other websites without getting consent from its author.While downloading, if for some reason you are not able to download a presentation, the publisher may have deleted the file from their server.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - E N D - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Presentation Transcript

Helen Carr University of Kent

HAS York 2014

The long history and strange currency of overcrowding standards

  • Legal provocations

  • A short history of overcrowding standards

    • Victorian solutions

    • The Housing Act 1935

  • New standards in a post-welfare state?

  • Explaining the long legal ‘afterlife’ of overcrowding standards


  • FTT (Property chamber) decision

  • LON/00BE/HPO/ 2013/0021

  • HHSRS Housing Act 2004

  • LB Southwark had issued prohibition orders on bedsitting rooms in shared houses smaller than 10 m2

  • Landlord appealed – no evidence of risk of harm

Ultimate Housing v LB Southwark

there must be a room size that would pose a serious risk to the health and safety of the occupier.

No evidence to demonstrate what that size would be

In the absence of agreement between the parties used overcrowding standards in the Housing Act 1985 to determine that these should be understood to demonstrate a consensus about a size which posed a serious risk.

Upheld Southwark’s decisions to prohibit occupation of all rooms smaller than 6.5 m2. and struck out its decisions to prohibit occupation of rooms sized between 6.5 m2 and 10m2.

The case has been appealed to the Upper Tribunal

Determination of Tribunal

Bedroom tax appeal to FTT (social entitlement) chamber

Judge McMahon referred to overcrowding standards in Housing Act 1985

the regulations pre-suppose that to be classified as a bedroom a room should be large enough to be appropriate for use as a bedroom by one adult or by two children. The rooms in this case were too small for use as a bedroom.

SCO/68/13/10921 9th January 2014

We have a problem that needs addressing. There are over quarter of a million households living in overcrowded social housing in England alone and another 1.8 million households stuck on the social housing waiting list. It is not right to make families wait and wait for a house that is big enough, while other households on benefits are allowed to live in homes that are too big for their needs, at no extra cost (Iain Duncan Smith 2013).

Link between overcrowding and penalisation of under-occupation

Britain has been here before


  • Rapid urbanisation

    • London’s population grew from just under one million in 1801 to almost 4 million by 1881 and by 1911 the population of greater London was well over 7 million

    • Liverpool 1801 – 77,653

      1901 – 684,958

  • Evangelical concerns

    • Moral decency

    • Fear of contagion

Victorian problematisation of overcrowding

‘…bred drunkenness, crime, and sexual immorality; it destroyed the sanctity of the ‘home’, and of the family within it; it concentrated the masses in a politically dangerous way; it disposed the mind to socialism or nihilism; it encouraged atheism; it helped to spread diseases. Overcrowding, in short, created the spectre of the moral and physical degeneration of the national stock’ (Wohl 1983:299)


  • Common lodging houses

    • Model byelaws – 300 cubic feet

  • Factories

    • 1901 350 cubic feet or 400 when the space was used for sleeping or overtime

  • Workhouses

    • 500 cubic feet per inmate

  • Barracks

    • Royal commission 1861 following Crimean War

    • 60 square feet of floor space was to be provided per man and 600 cubic feet of air space

Responses – regulating space

Public Health Act 1875

S.91 gave local authorities the power to intervene where any house or part of a house so overcrowded as to be dangerous or injurious to the health of the inmates

Authorities had to demonstrate to magistrates that overcrowding was a nuisance as no minimum floor or air space was specified


  • Census of 1901

    • 400,000 living in one roomed tenements, 9,000 people living 7 to a room and 3,000 8 to a room

  • ‘Evil’ of the interwar years

  • The Southwark 11 The Times July 13th 1928… man, wife and nine children living in one room

  • ‘Overcrowding is harder to cure than slums, because it is less definite; it can drift and flow about and escape one’s grasp’ Minister of Housing

The persistence of overcrowding

  • Room standard

  • Space standard

  • Memorandum B

    • It is relevant to point out that this standard does not represent any ideal standard of housing, but the minimum which is in the view of Parliament tolerable while at the same time capable of immediate or early enforcement

The Housing Act 1935

  • Never in the history of the world or in any country have plans been made on such a comprehensive scale for the abatement and prevention of overcrowding

    • But

  • Very low standard – below London standards and included living room. Intention to improve the standard never implemented.

  • Need to create a consensus - ‘Englishman’s home is his castle’

Two views

  • Council housing and the decline of the private rented sector

    • Over the period 1911-2011, the population of England and Wales grew by half but the number of homes grew faster and the number of rooms faster still. The proportion of people living below the widely-used measure of overcrowding of one room per person, a measure of low absolute housing consumption, fell from 48.7% to 3.7%.

  • Nonetheless inadequacy of responses

    • Few prosecutions

    • Little knowledge of overcrowding

  • Bedroom standard as a better measure of conditions

    • developed by Government social survey activity in the 1960s.

    • based on the number of bedrooms required for each household allowing for age, sex, marital status, composition & relationship.

    • Basis of the bedroom tax

The short active life of overcrowding standards

  • A post-welfare project?

    • pressure for reform via New Labour’s Housing Bill rejected

    • To raise the overcrowding standards in isolation from other factors would be essentially symbolic and would lead to increased demand for housing, to the detriment of other people whose living conditions may be worse; and would make it more difficult for authorities to juggle their priorities. The Government believes that the better approach to the problem of overcrowding is to improve housing supply through the substantial resources which are being provided, rather than try to tackle a single symptom of housing pressure. The Draft Housing Bill – Government Response Paper, Cm 2000, November 2003 para 15.

    • The Housing Health and Safety Rating System – elimination of risk rather than promoting social equality

    • But where is the risk?

Reforming overcrowding standards

The production of additional homes and housing space, and the reduction in low absolute consumption of housing space, could be rated as amongst the greatest achievements of the twentieth century economy and of twentieth century social policy. For the millions who experienced it over the century, achieving first a room per person, and then two, three or more, must have had a transformative impact on family and personal life.



Housing interventions designed to promote social solidarity have ceased

Market increasingly dominates distribution of housing space

Growth of new housing space inequality

Limits of available tools means that standards already out of date in the 1930s will increasingly be applied

Housing space increasingly politicised and the poor increasingly dispossessed

But now

  • Login