Graphs on this page:

Supporting information:

Key points

  • 4% of people live in overcrowded conditions, down from 8% a decade ago.
  • Overcrowding is twice as prevalent in social rented housing as in owner-occupation.
  • According to the 2001 Census, the proportion of overcrowded households (based on a measure called ‘occupancy rating’) in each Northern Ireland district follows a pronounced west-east pattern, with Derry, Strabane and Limavady all having rates of overcrowding of at least 10%, whereas North Down and Castlereagh had rates below 4%.  The pattern is not just restricted to the extremes however, since almost all eastern districts, with the exception of Belfast, have lower proportions than almost all western ones.
  • In the 2001 Census, Northern Ireland had a slightly higher proportion of overcrowded households than in most other parts of Great Britain.

Definitions and data sources

Clearly, within reason, households would prefer to have more space available rather than less, and a household that is deemed to be ‘overcrowded’ is therefore suffering as a result.  A household may be overcrowded for one or more of at least three reasons.  First, a larger property may not be available.  Second, a larger property may not be affordable.  Or third, the household may include people who are expected to be there only temporarily, ether because they cannot find, or cannot afford, a place of their own.

The first graph shows the proportion of both people and households that fall below a measure of occupation density known as the ‘bedroom standard’.  Note that the proportion of people living in overcrowded conditions is much higher than the proportion of households.

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.

The second graph shows how the proportion of people who are living in overcrowded conditions varies by tenure using the same bedroom standard.  To improve its statistical reliability, the data is the average for the latest three years.

The data source for the first two graphs is the Continuous Household Survey.

The third graph shows how the proportion of households living in overcrowded conditions varies by local authority.

The fourth graph shows how the proportion of households living in overcrowded conditions in Northern Ireland compares with the regions of Great Britain.

The data for the third and fourth graphs is from the 2001 Census (tables so053 and so159 for England and Wales, S53 for Scotland and KS19 and S357 for Northern Ireland).  The standard of overcrowding used in the Census is something called ‘occupancy rating’ which assumes that every household; including one person households; requires a minimum of two common rooms (excluding bathrooms).

Overall adequacy of the indicator: limited.  The bedroom standard itself is considered by many to be low, particularly for those aged over 10, and the overall level of overcrowding shown by it may therefore be too low.