Lockdown living

Housing quality across the generations

This briefing note explores a key social issue which has come to the fore during the coronavirus pandemic, and that is living conditions. For three months, the majority of the population has ‘stayed home to save lives’, bringing the quality of our housing stock and neighbourhoods into sharp relief.

Given this, the inequalities we uncover in this note are concerning. We highlight significant differences between age groups, with young people spending lockdown in poorer conditions than older people. Moreover, these age differences have increased over time, as housing and neighbourhood improvements have disproportionately benefited older generations. But we also identify widescale inequalities within age groups, with large gaps in housing quality observed between rich and poor, and those from white and Black, Asian and ethnic minority (BAME) backgrounds.

We show that living conditions in lockdown have been determined by long-term housing trends such as tenure change, the failure to build sufficient social-housing stock and weak regulation of the private-rented sector. As we face the prospect of local lockdowns or even a second wave going into the winter months, both short- and long-term action to address the inequalities uncovered here is needed more than ever before.