More than 2.6 million people will be forced to live in cramped housing in England by 2011 as unemployment and repossessions soar during the recession, a national housing body said on Wednesday.
The National Housing Federation, which represents not-for-profit housing associations, warned 15 percent more people, an extra 350,000, will live in overcrowded conditions.
"Living in overcrowded housing can be hugely damaging to family life," said the federation's chief executive David Orr. "It can lead to poor health, depression and puts relationships within the family under enormous strain."
There are currently 2.3 million people living in properties officially classed as overcrowded in England.
The problem is most severe in London, where 203,000 homes -- some 6.6 percent of the capital's total -- are overcrowded. The southeast and northwest regions are also problem areas.
The Federation also warned that the situation could worsen if the recession leads to fewer affordable homes being built.
It said estimates show that as few as 70,000 new homes could be built in England this year and next, down from around 140,000 a year in 2008-2009.
Nearly 5 million people are expected to be on social housing waiting lists by 2010, while a wave of repossessions could further add to the crisis, it added.
Labour has pledged to build 3 million new homes by 2020 but the credit crunch has seen house building virtually grind to a halt.
Orr called on the government to pump more money into building new homes in the Budget next week. It said the government should earmark 6.35 billion pounds for 100,000 new homes for social rent over the next two years.
"This would ensure we can continue to build high-quality affordable housing, with adequate space standards, through the downturn, while at the same time helping to boost the economy," he said.