London needs an overcrowding action plan from the Mayor

I have written to the Mayor asking for a new action plan and targets to reduce overcrowding in our homes.

The call comes from the cross-party Assembly Housing Committee investigation into overcrowded housing in London, which I have chaired this year.

The letter asks for a number of measures to be included in the plan:

  • Improved data collection, so that the true extent of overcrowding in London is known and interventions can be targeted to the people and areas that need it most.
  • Incentives for London’s boroughs and social landlords to build and acquire homes of all sizes, including family-sized homes, which are affordable at or close to the Local Housing Alllowance.
  • Improved options for helping people in all tenures to downsize from their current property if they have a larger home than they need, helping to free these homes for overcrowded families.
  • More work to help improve affordability and standards in the private rented sector generally, so that families can be housed securely in this tenure.
  • Continued work with London’s boroughs to improve access to and awareness of discretionary housing payments for those who need additional support.

Overcrowding has a damaging impact on people’s health and wellbeing, especially children, who need the space to play and grow in a healthy way.

Far too many London families are affected by this problem and it appears to be growing. Sadly, the lack of data collected around this issue means we still do not know how bad the problem really is in each local area, reducing our ability to target new policies.

This issue needs an action plan from the Mayor to help everyone working in housing start to ease the burden that Londoners face in cramped and crowded homes.

The plan should help and encourage local boroughs to find and build homes for families, and help make sure smaller homes are suitable for people to ‘downsize’ from larger homes than they need, as well as help find more support for people on low incomes to cover the cost of larger homes through benefits and discretionary payments.

As a starting point, however, it is absolutely critical that the collection of data on overcrowding is improved.

Without knowing the extent of the problem in every borough across London, the Mayor cannot do his job and local authorities will struggle to make plans to meet housing needs.

Londoners deserve to have a home that is the right size, and which is fit for them and their family.

Findings from our investigation include:

Londoners, particularly children, are more affected by overcrowded housing than people living in the rest of England, with severe consequences for their health and wellbeing.

Overcrowding worsened during the pandemic, with estimates that the rate rose to as high as 15 per cent in London.

Cramped and overcrowded conditions are a source of serious strain on people’s physical and mental health, with 40 per cent of overcrowded households reporting significant mould, compared with 16 per cent of households not living in overcrowded conditions. This also affects lung health and other health risks, and is a major concern in the wake of the pandemic.

Children have less space to play and study, which impacts their development and parents suffer with lack of privacy and disturbed sleep due to sharing bedrooms or sleeping on floors or sofas.

Read the letter in full here.