One in six young adults in the UK are living in poor-quality housing, according to research that says damp, draughty and cramped living conditions are harming the physical and mental health of millions.
Resolution Foundation said Britain was facing a twin housing crisis as soaring rents and mortgage payments added to the pressure on people living in substandard accommodation, with young adults bearing the brunt.
The thinktank found that up to 2.6 million people aged 18-34 were living in poor-quality housing – defined as homes that were not in a good state of repair, where heating, electrics or plumbing were not in full working order and where damp was present.
Up to one in 10 people across the UK – 6.5 million in total – live in such properties, according to the report, with the highest concentrations among young people, low-income families and those from minority ethnic backgrounds.
The report comes amid growing concern over the dilapidated state of housing in Britain since the Awaab Ishak case, in which a social landlord’s failure to treat mould was found to have caused the death of a two-year-old boy in Rochdale, Lancashire.
The housing ombudsman has warned that the number of complaints about damp and leaks from social housing tenants in England is on course to more than double for last year compared with 2020-21. Government figures also show almost a quarter of private rentals in England fail to meet the decent home standards.
Resolution Foundation said young adults were disproportionately more likely to be living in poor-quality housing, affecting 18% of 18- to 34-year-olds compared with 6% of people over 45.
According to the research, based on a YouGov survey of more than 10,000 adults across the UK, supported by the Health Foundation charity, people from Pakistani or Bangladeshi backgrounds were most likely to report living in poor housing (36%), followed by Black families (26%).
The study found a strong association between poor-quality housing and poor health, with those living in substandard homes twice as likely to experience a health problem compared with people who said they lived in decent homes.
It comes as millions face rising rental costs and higher mortgage payments after a succession of interest rate increases from the Bank of England, and as people across the country grapple with the highest rates of inflation for 40 years.
The report says renters are particularly hard hit and more likely to have fallen behind on their payments than mortgagors.
Calling on the government to take urgent action to address multiple crises in the housing market, Resolution Foundation said more affordable homes needed to be built and improvements made to existing housing stock.
Lalitha Try, an economist at Resolution Foundation, said: “High costs and poor housing quality can make life miserable for people, and can damage their personal finances and their wider health.
“It is critical that policymakers tackle both of these crises by building new affordable housing and improving the quality of the housing stock we already have.”
A government spokesperson said it was investing £11.5bn to deliver “tens of thousands” of homes for sale and rent, alongside a social housing bill to introduce “Awaab’s law”, which will require landlords to fix damp, mould and other hazards within a strict timeframe.
“Everyone deserves decent, safe, and suitable homes and we are committed to increasing supply and driving up standards.”