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?
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Helen Carr University of Kent
HAS York 2014
The long history and strange currency of overcrowding standards
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
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.
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).
Britain has been here before
1901 – 684,958
‘…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)
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
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