More than a third of adult Britons do not have access to safe and secure housing, the charity Shelter has revealed in a new report.
The organisation conducted a survey of 13,000 people and used recent government figures on homelessness to conclude that Britain is suffering a "housing emergency".
Those surveyed by the charity were asked in detail about their home and housing experiences, using eight criteria to measure whether they had access to a safe and secure home. Questions included whether homes were unaffordable, unfit or unstable, and if occupiers had been subject to discrimination due to their race, gender, disability or sexuality.
The report, titled Denied the Right to a Safe Home, estimates that 17.5 million – 34 per cent of adults - are affected. Including children, the number increased to 22 million, the charity said.
Race, disability, sexuality and socio-economic status are all significant factors, the report says, with black people 70 per cent more likely to be affected than white people, and Asian people 50 per cent more likely.
Shelter’s survey revealed that more than half – or 1.8 million– of people with a significant disability did not have a safe or secure home, compared with 30 per cent of people without a disability.
Just under two-thirds of single mothers, 1 million people, did not have a safe or secure home, the report also said.
Of those surveyed, 23 per cent said they were living in homes with significant damp, mould and condensation, and were unable to keep warm in winter. Unaffordability and insecurity were two other key issues cited, with 8 per cent of respondents saying they regularly cut back on essential items to pay for housing costs.
Shelter’s chief executive, Polly Neate, blamed “decades of neglect” for the crisis.
“A safe home is everything, yet millions don’t have one. Lives are being ruined by benefit cuts, blatant discrimination and the total failure to build social homes.”
The charity says not enough social housing has been built by the government over the years and condemns a lack of regulation on private rented accommodation.
The report revealed that between 2000 and 2019, the number of households renting privately more than doubled from 2 million to 4.4 million. Average private rental costs have increased by nearly 30 per cent in the last 11 years, compared with an average increase of just 18 per cent in earnings.
Some of those surveyed said the unaffordability of good housing meant they compromised by living in overcrowded or poor conditions.
Shelter is calling on the government to build 90,000 good quality homes every year.
A Ministry of Housing statement said it was "unacceptable for people to live in unsafe accommodation" and that they were providing £750 million ($1.06 billion) this year to help tackle homelessness and rough sleeping.