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Housing in England has changed significantly in the past 50 years

Housing Survey, which recently celebrated its 50th birthday. The first survey was undertaken back in 1967


and at that point we appeared to be mainly interested in whether homes had a bath or shower, an indoor toilet, a wash hand basin, and hot and cold water at three points. And you can understand why when we realise that 25 per cent of homes lacked one or more of these basic amenities, while 2.5 million homes didn’t have an inside WC. It seems quite remarkable to us now but it

literally was a different world in the ‘Swinging Sixties’. The country was enjoying Beatlemania, England had just won the football World Cup (for the first and only time) in the previous year, while the horrors of homelessness had been revealed in the gritty TV play ‘Cathy Come Home’. It was only just over 20 years since the ending of

the Second World War, there were slums in all our major cities, and in places like Notting Hill in west London slum landlords like Peter Rachman had been making their fortunes out of squalid properties. The Rent Act 1965 and the Leasehold Reform Act 1967 had been brought in by the Wilson Government in an attempt to improve conditions and security of tenure for exploited tenants. In 1967 there were 14.8 million homes in

England – and approximately 14.4 million of these homes remain part of the housing stock today. Housebuilding peaked the following year in 1968 with 352,000 new homes completed – a figure that we can only dream about today.

PRIORITIES Wholesale demolition and the replacement of poor quality stock (through ‘slum clearances’) had been an important part of housing policy after WW2, but from 1967 onwards greater emphasis was placed on improving the existing housing and adding to it. Around 7.5 million of today’s homes built before 1965 have had major improvement works undertaken and about a third have been extended. Back in 1967, roughly half (51 per cent) of the

housing stock was owner occupied, 29 per cent was in the social rented sector and 20 per cent was privately rented. Fifty years later, 63 per cent of the stock is owner occupied, 17 per cent is social rented and 20 per cent is privately rented. In between times the private rented sector dropped as low as nine per cent in the mid 1980s, a level it stayed at for 20 years before sharply increasing in the past decade, fuelled by the Buy To Let boom. In the social rented sector housing associations were very much the minor player 50 years ago but

fascinating insight into the changes to our homes and how we live in them has been revealed in a review of the English

more recently they have overtaken local authorities as the owners of more than half of the sector’s homes, This has been achieved through stock transfers (mainly in the 1990s and 2000s), a nationally driven development programme which directs funding towards associations and Right To Buy, which has seen millions of council tenants acquire their home. Owner-occupation peaked at 71 per cent in 2003

and it seems the Government is intent on moving us back up towards that level of home ownership with its continuing support for purchase schemes, putting billions of pounds into Help To Buy in recent years and most recently in abolishing stamp duty for first time buyers on purchases up to £300,000 in value. While the 1967 survey had a limited focus on

measuring housing standards and housing regeneration, the survey’s remit has since broadened to include a much wider range of housing-related concerns.

GREENER HOMES Notably, the EHS plays an important part in monitoring housing performance, particularly heating and energy efficiency, and its effect on fuel poverty. While the 1967 EHS did not collect information on heating fuel or insulation, other sources indicate that in 1961 some 76 per cent of homes used solid fuel (coal or wood) and the number of homes that had any form of insulation was virtually zero. By 2015, less than one per cent of homes relied

on solid fuel for their main heating (using gas, electricity or oil instead), 95 per cent of homes have some double glazing, and 98 per cent either have loft insulation or no loft. Average household size has gone down since the

1960s, from 3.0 people per household in the 1961 Census to 2.4 in 2015-16. This is for a variety of reasons, including the ageing of the population and, related to this, the increase in the proportion of households consisting of just one or two persons, which rose from 43 per cent in 1961 to 64 per cent in 2015-16. In 2015, the most prevalent dwelling type was the

terraced house, comprising 28 per cent of the stock. While 17 per cent of our current homes were built between 1850 and 1918, more than half (54 per cent) of the homes remaining from that period are terraced houses. The second most prevalent dwelling type in 2015

was the semi-detached house (26 per cent of the stock). While 16 per cent of our current homes were built between 1919 and 1944, nearly half (47 per cent) of the homes remaining from that period are semi-detached houses. Among stock built since the 1980’s, three

dwelling types predominate: the detached house (28 per cent of homes built during this period), the low- rise purpose built flat (24 per cent) and the terraced house (23 per cent).

SMALLER HOUSEHOLDS Since the 1967 survey, the number of households in England has increased from 13.9 million in the 1961 Census to 22.8 million in 2015-16. The increase in the number of households represents both population growth and a decrease in average household size, from 3.0 in the 1961 Census to 2.4 in 2015-16. For a variety of reasons, including population ageing, the proportion of households consisting of just one or two persons rose from 43 per cent in 1961 to 64 per cent in 2015-16. There has been a corresponding increase in the

number of under-occupied homes. In the last 20 years, under-occupation in the owner occupied sector has increased to the point where, in 2015-16, over half of owner occupied households are under- occupied (i.e. have two or more spare bedrooms). The proportion of under-occupied households in the rented sectors decreased over this period, partly fuelled by the Bedroom Tax and restrictions on housing benefit. The overall number and proportion of under-

occupied households increased from 31 per cent (6.2 million households) in 1995-96 to 37 per cent (8.5 million households) in 2015-16. Commentators say this is largely a result of middle-aged couples no longer downsizing after their children leave home as well as adult couples separating. In 2015-16, overcrowding was more prevalent in

the rented sectors than for owner occupiers. The proportion of overcrowded households in the owner occupied sector, which was just one per cent (191,000 households) in 2015-16, has remained relatively stable since 1995-96. Overcrowding in the social rented sector rose

from five per cent of social rented sector households in 1995-96 to seven per cent in 2015-16. Overcrowding in the private rented sector rose from three per cent of private rented sector households in 1995-96 to five per cent in 2015-16. The full report, ‘50 years of the English Housing Survey’ can be downloaded from the DCLG website. | HMM January 2018 | 15

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