Presentation on theme: "Helen Carr University of Kent HAS York 2014. Legal provocations A short history of overcrowding standards Victorian solutions The Housing Act."— Presentation transcript:
Helen Carr University of Kent HAS York 2014
Legal provocations A short history of overcrowding standards Victorian solutions The Housing Act 1935 New standards in a post-welfare state? Explaining the long legal ‘afterlife’ of overcrowding standards
FTT (Property chamber) decision LON/00BE/HPO/ 2013/0021 HHSRS Housing Act 2004 LB Southwark had issued prohibition orders on bedsitting rooms in shared houses smaller than 10 m2 Landlord appealed – no evidence of risk of harm
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 m 2. and struck out its decisions to prohibit occupation of rooms sized between 6.5 m 2 and 10m 2. 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
Rapid urbanisation London’s population grew from just under one million in 1801 to almost 4 million by 1881 and by 1911 the population of greater London was well over 7 million Liverpool 1801 – 77,653 1901 – 684,958 Evangelical concerns Moral decency Fear of contagion
‘…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)
Common lodging houses Model byelaws – 300 cubic feet Factories 1901 350 cubic feet or 400 when the space was used for sleeping or overtime Workhouses 500 cubic feet per inmate Barracks Royal commission 1861 following Crimean War 60 square feet of floor space was to be provided per man and 600 cubic feet of air space
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
Census of 1901 400,000 living in one roomed tenements, 9,000 people living 7 to a room and 3,000 8 to a room ‘Evil’ of the interwar years The Southwark 11 The Times July 13 th 1928… man, wife and nine children living in one room ‘Overcrowding is harder to cure than slums, because it is less definite; it can drift and flow about and escape one’s grasp’ Minister of Housing
Room standard Space standard Memorandum B It is relevant to point out that this standard does not represent any ideal standard of housing, but the minimum which is in the view of Parliament tolerable while at the same time capable of immediate or early enforcement
Never in the history of the world or in any country have plans been made on such a comprehensive scale for the abatement and prevention of overcrowding But Very low standard – below London standards and included living room. Intention to improve the standard never implemented. Need to create a consensus - ‘Englishman’s home is his castle’
Council housing and the decline of the private rented sector Over the period 1911-2011, the population of England and Wales grew by half but the number of homes grew faster and the number of rooms faster still. The proportion of people living below the widely-used measure of overcrowding of one room per person, a measure of low absolute housing consumption, fell from 48.7% to 3.7%. Nonetheless inadequacy of responses Few prosecutions Little knowledge of overcrowding Bedroom standard as a better measure of conditions developed by Government social survey activity in the 1960s. based on the number of bedrooms required for each household allowing for age, sex, marital status, composition & relationship. Basis of the bedroom tax
A post-welfare project? pressure for reform via New Labour’s Housing Bill rejected To raise the overcrowding standards in isolation from other factors would be essentially symbolic and would lead to increased demand for housing, to the detriment of other people whose living conditions may be worse; and would make it more difficult for authorities to juggle their priorities. The Government believes that the better approach to the problem of overcrowding is to improve housing supply through the substantial resources which are being provided, rather than try to tackle a single symptom of housing pressure. The Draft Housing Bill – Government Response Paper, Cm 2000, November 2003 para 15. The Housing Health and Safety Rating System – elimination of risk rather than promoting social equality But where is the risk?
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. Tunstall
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