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Over-squeezed Brits take desperate measures to stretch homes

Press release: 14/10/2011

  • The average British family has lost 11 sq ft of living space in the last three years

  • One in eight (13%) of all UK children now live in overcrowded homes

  • Overcrowding has been rising throughout the last decade after falling for almost a century before this

  • One in eight (13%) family households have made potentially unsafe modifications to their homes to create more space


British homes are feeling the squeeze as families are packed ever tighter into housing they have outgrown but are unable to move out of, new research finds.

According to home insurer LV=, the average UK family household has seen their living space shrink by around 11 sq ft since 2008. The research, which looked at the issue of overcrowding in British homes since 1931, found that after decades of overcrowding declining in the UK this trend has now reversed.

The rise in overcrowding is being driven by a greater demand for space in the home and an inability to 'trade up' to a larger property. One in twelve (8%) family households [1] say they are unable to move due to a lack of equity in their home or because they would struggle to get a bigger mortgage.

Many homeowners have been forced to 'stretch' the space in their homes by converting lofts, garages and even cupboards into living areas. An estimated 190,000 children have seen their bedrooms partitioned into two separate smaller spaces by space starved parents in an attempt to create extra bedrooms. Yet many don't realise that these modifications may contravene building regulations and could be unsafe.

According to the research findings, one in eight (13%) families who modified their homes say they are unsure whether their modifications to their homes complied with regulations and one in fifty (2%) say they are sure they do not.

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 noteworthy changes in their home.

The majority (90%) of overcrowded households are family households and overcrowding is having a knock-on effect on children living in these homes. One in eight (13%) of all UK children now live in overcrowded homes, as defined by the official government measure of overcrowding [2], which is up from 11% in 2008. In these homes, children are unlikely to have their own bedroom or any private area for them to study. At the same time, adult children are remaining in or returning to their parental home for longer, putting more pressure on the family home.

Expanding families are not the only reason for the squeeze. Modern homes often have to double up as a home office or workshop. The number of home workers has grown by a fifth (20%) since 2008 and the demand for working space at home has driven down the amount of available living space. An estimated half million makeshift work-spaces have sprung up in corridors, cupboards and under the stairs, putting increased strain on the home.

London families are the worst affected where around one in seven (14%) families are living in overcrowded homes - twice the UK average.

John O'Roarke, Managing Director of LV= Home Insurance, said "British families are feeling the squeeze as they are being forced to live in smaller homes than are suitable for their needs. High property prices have forced many families to remain in a house that they have outgrown and many are resorting to desperate measures to create extra space. The research found that hundreds of thousands of families are now 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."

For more information, log on to www.lv.com.


All research unless stated otherwise was conducted by Nelson Research for LV= insurance.

Original survey research was conducted with a nationally representative UK-wide sample of 1,041 households. Interviews were carried out online, using respondents recruited from the Panelbase online panel, between September 8 and 19 2011.

Original survey data was used in conjunction with Census data, data from the English Housing Survey, the Survey of Scottish Housing and The English House Condition Survey in order to calculate overcrowding levels and the average space per person in family homes since 2008.

LV= employs 5000 people and serves over four million customers with a range of financial products. We are the UK’s largest friendly society and a leading financial mutual.

When we started in 1843 our goal was to give financial security to more than just a privileged few and for many decades we were most commonly associated with providing a method of saving to people of modest means. Today we follow a similar purpose, helping people to protect and provide for the things they love, although on a much larger scale and through a wide range of financial services including insurance, investment and retirement products.

We offer our services direct to consumers, as well as through IFAs and brokers, and through strategic partnerships with organisations such as ASDA, Nationwide Building Society and a range of trades unions.

LVFS is authorised and regulated by the Financial Services Authority, register number 110035. LVFS is a member of the ABI, the AFM and ILAG. Registered address: County Gates, Bournemouth BH1 2NF. www.LV.com


[1] Our definition of a family home was any household containing at least one parent and child.
[2] 'Overcrowded' homes defined by the 'bedroom standard', the official government measure of occupation density. The 'bedroom standard' is calculated in relation to the number of bedrooms and the number of household members and their relationship to each other. One bedroom is allocated to each married or cohabiting couple, any other person over 21, each pair aged 10 to 20 of the same sex and each pair of children under 10. A dwelling is overcrowded where the number of bedrooms available to the occupiers is less than the number of bedrooms allocated to them in accordance with this formula. See the Housing (Overcrowding) Bill for further details.