Family properties in the UK getting smaller, research has found

The average size of a family home in the UK has shrunk by two square metres over the past 10 years and more families with children are now living in flats, according to a new survey.

One in five, or 22% of family households have been forced to modify their homes to create more space and overcrowding is more prevalent in households where the family owns their own home or rents privately, compared to families living in social housing, the research has found.

As well as the average family home fundamentally changing in recent years with more families living in smaller properties, more are renting property for  longer, the research from home insurance company LV= also found.
Today’s average family home is now just 96.8 square metres compared to 98.8 in 2003, as modern homes are much smaller than their predecessors.

Fewer families now own their own home and more are being forced to rent a property. The proportion of families with children living in rented accommodation has risen sharply in recent years, from 15% in 2008 to 19% in 2013. High property prices have forced many to face a lifetime of renting with 29% now unable to afford to save the deposit for a home.

In particular, the number of families with children living in flats has significantly increased. One in 10 families now live in flats, meaning they make up a third of all flat dwellers, a 20% increase in just five years.

Many are not living in flats by choice. Some 60% say they but cannot afford to rent a bigger property and 14% say they need a property in a specific location, even if it is smaller than they’d like.

The research also shows that multi generational homes have also become more common as adult children are remaining in or returning to their parental home for longer. There are 14% more multi generational households today than there were in 2008, putting even more pressure on the family home. This, together with the rise in families living in smaller properties, means that 8.1%) families now live in overcrowded homes, as defined by the official government measure of overcrowding, which is a 40% increase since 2008.

Close to half a million, 499,094, family homes are defined as overcrowded with 44% of these classed as social or council housing and 56% of these being privately occupied. In these homes, children are unlikely to have their own bedroom or any private area for them to study. London families are the worst affected, with 34% families in Tower Hamlets, and 33% of families in Newham living in overcrowded conditions, some four times the national average. Outside of London Leicester and Birmingham follow with 15% of families living in overcrowded properties.

Since 2008 22% of home owners have been forced to stretch the space in their homes by converting lofts and garages into living areas. An estimated 150,000 children have seen their bedrooms partitioned in two in an attempt to create extra bedrooms. Yet many families don’t realise that these modifications may contravene building regulations and could be unsafe, the research points out.

According to the research 10% of families who modified their homes say they are unsure whether their alterations to their homes complied with regulations. 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 significant changes in their home as it may affect their cover.

‘The average family home has changed dramatically in the last five years with more families now living in flats and rented accommodation. The research found that many families are living with makeshift modifications, which could be illegal and also unsafe,’ said John O’Roarke, managing director of LV= home insurance.

‘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,’ he added.