Focus on family homes
The government has finally agreed to change the outdated overcrowding rules as part of a package of measures aimed at increasing the supply of family homes.
Housing minister Yvette Cooper has pledged to redraft the 70 year old statutory standard, which she admitted caused the ridiculous situation of kitchens being counted as bedrooms.
Campaigners hailed the move as the first official recognition of overcrowding as a critical problem.
The first step in the drive to reduce overcrowding will be delivered through the Housing Corporation's new affordable housing programme, which will see 35 per cent of all new homes in London built with three or more bedrooms.
The government is, however, considering a staged approach to changing the overcrowding standard, indicating an attempt to limit the high cost of the move.
'As part of our strategy to address child poverty we have to address the fact that too many children are living in overcrowded accommodation in the capital and elsewhere,' Cooper said.
'It is really crazy that we could have families, in the extreme situation, where someone is sleeping in the kitchen and it isn't regarded as overcrowded.'
Under the current statutory standard only 0.1 per cent of families are regarded as severely overcrowded. 'But that doesn't tell us a huge amount,' she said.
English Partnerships, the government agency charged with delivering thousands of first time buyer homes, is being instructed to build more larger homes, Cooper added.
'We can't just look at social housing. We need to look at shared equity schemes and we are talking to English Partnerships so we can provide shared equity schemes not just for first time buyers but for families as well.'
Dino Patel, regional manager of the London Housing Federation, said the reform of overcrowding rules was not a cheap option for the government. 'It will jack up the numbers and if the numbers increase that means the investment for larger homes will have to increase because they take up more space,' he said.
The capital's councils are also now expected to meet the 35 per cent overcrowding target despite initial fears they would miss it (Inside Housing, 6 January).
Steve Douglas, deputy chief executive of the corporation, said the turnaround was partly achieved by reassuring London local authorities that schemes with family homes would be supported.
'We have confirmed there will be no disadvantage in our assessments if they have larger homes in schemes.'
Several councils had agreed to boost the number of larger homes following the corporation's intervention, he added. 'Most boroughs in London were very supportive in identifying schemes and in some instances changed planning permissions.'