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Half of privately owned homes are 'under-occupied'


Half of all private homes are under-occupied, according to analysis by building society Nationwide, which comes as the coalition government is forging ahead with the "bedroom tax" for council houses.

The study found that 85% of owner-occupied properties in England have at least one spare bedroom. "Remarkably, 49% are classified as being 'under-occupied' – that is to say they have two or more spare bedrooms. In contrast, in the private rental sector only 16% of properties are 'under-occupied'," Nationwide said.

Its findings also contradict the widely held view that Britain's population is being squeezed into smaller and smaller homes.

Since 2001, the mean floor area of a home has increased from 86.9m2 (935 sq ft) to 91.6m2 (986 sq ft), Nationwide said. Behind the expansion is a flood of extensions, loft conversions and conservatories.

"26% of properties have been extended since their construction, while 5% have had a loft conversion. A further 16% of properties benefit from additional space through having a conservatory," Nationwide found.


The average size of a private detached home has risen from 139.2m2 to 149.1m2, but the research reveals a generational divide with the average flat – popular among first-time buyers – shrinking in size from 58.6m2 to 58.1m2. But we are squeezing in more bathrooms: Nationwide found that just over a quarter of the country's private homes now have two bathrooms, while 39% have a second loo.

Bungalows appear to be going out of favour, despite ageing demographics. Nationwide said they make up 9.7% of the housing stock compared to 11.4% in 1996. Meanwhile, there has been a slight increase in the proportion of detached houses, up from 21.5% to 23.8% over the same period.

Our homes are also becoming more energy efficient, as much due to the rising cost of gas and electricity as concern about carbon emissions. Since 1996 the proportion of owner-occupied property rated A-D has increased from 14% to 55%, Nationwide said. It also cited data from the DCLG English housing survey which found that the proportion of dwellings with double glazing has increased from 30% to 76% since 1996.

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