Shrinking family homes lead to rise in overcrowding

The average family home has fundamentally changed in recent years with more families living in smaller properties and renting for longer.

New research from LV= home insurance shows that the floor area of the average family home has shrunk by two square metres over the past 10 years.

Today’s average family home is now just 96.8 square metres compared to 98.8 in 2003, as modern family homes are much smaller than their predecessors.

Fewer families now own their own home and more are being forced to rent a property.

The proportion of families with children living in rented accommodation has risen sharply in recent years, from 15 per cent in 2008 to 19 per cent in 2013.

High property prices have forced many to face a lifetime of renting with close to one in three (29 per cent) now unable to afford to save the deposit for a home.

In particular, the number of families with children living in flats has significantly increased.

One in 10 families now live in flats, meaning they make up a third of all flat-dwellers – a 20 per cent increase in just five years.

Many are not living in flats by choice but cannot afford to rent a bigger property (60 per cent) or need a property in a specific location (14 per cent), even if it is smaller than they’d like.

‘Multi-generational’ homes have also become more common as adult children are remaining in or returning to their parental home for longer. There are 14 per cent more multi-generational households today than there were in 2008, putting even more pressure on the family home.

This, together with the rise in families living in smaller properties, means that close to one in 10 (8.1 per cent) families now live in ‘overcrowded’ homes, as defined by the official government measure of overcrowding, which is a 40 per cent increase since 2008.

Overcrowding is more prevalent in households where the family owns their own home or rents privately, compared to families living in social housing. Close to half a million (499,094) family homes are defined as overcrowded with 44 per cent of these classed as social or council housing (219,592) and 56 per cent of these being privately occupied (219,592).

In these homes, children are unlikely to have their own bedroom or any private area for them to study.

Since 2008 one in five (22 per cent) homeowners have been forced to ‘stretch’ the space in their homes by converting lofts and garages into living areas.

An estimated 150,000 children have seen their bedrooms partitioned in two in an attempt to create extra bedrooms. Yet many families don’t realise that these modifications may contravene building regulations and could be unsafe.

According to the research, one in 10 (10 per cent) families who modified their homes say they are unsure whether their alterations to their homes complied with regulations.

Structural changes to a property need to be checked by the council and certificated as completed to a suitable standard.

This could include knocking down internal walls and changes to usage of space. Homeowners also need to ensure they tell their insurer about any significant changes in their home as it may affect their cover.

LV= home insurance managing director John O’Roarke said: “The average family home has changed dramatically in the last five years with more families now living in flats and rented accommodation.

“The research found that many families are living with makeshift modifications, which could be illegal and also unsafe. Building regulations are designed to ensure that home modifications are safe and we urge all those considering modifying their home to ensure any changes they are planning to make meet regulation standards.”

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