Research by Cambridge University analysed 16,000 dwellings in England and found that 55 per cent of dwellings fall short of the standards based on floor space alone, and 21 per cent fall short when the number of current occupants is taken into account.
The researchers used a modified version of the Greater London Authority’s (GLA’s) 2010 London Housing Design Guide internal space standard as the basis of their study and compared it to the homes studied, both existing and new-build housing.
The study found that flats and small terraced houses were most commonly below the standard.
Dwellings were also frequently found to be under-occupied in comparison with the number of bedrooms, which was most likely due to lack of space.
A further key finding was that households receiving housing benefit were more likely to be undersized, with 'spare' bedrooms required for other uses.
As a result, the report suggests that government's so-called ‘bedroom tax’, which withdraws benefits from households with a spare bedroom, is misguided because it only takes into account the number of bedrooms and not internal space.
The document highlighted the fact that there are no national standards which quantify what is an acceptable amount of space.
The report recommends that councils set minimum space standards in the way the GLA has done, refecting the conclusions of the government’s Housing Standards Review.
The review, on which the government announced its conclusion in March last month, will standardise requirements for such matters as accessibility, security and energy performance nationally via building regulations.
The study also suggested that policy-makers help identify the costs of poor housing to the NHS and wider society and make estate agents "clearly state" the internal area of homes when renting or buying one.
According to the study, the UK has the smallest homes by floor area in Europe. The average newly-built home is just 76 square metres, compared to 137 square metres in Denmark.
A key reason is the removal of minimum space standards by the 1980 Local Government, Planning and Land Act, the document adds, as well as the high value of land, and the low number of houses being built by councils and housing associations.
Between one quarter and one third of people in the UK are dissatisfied with the amount of space in their homes, it goes on to say.
Malcolm Morgan, a PhD student in the university’s engineering department who led the research, said: "We hope that this new method of measuring space can be used to inform future housing policy."
A statement by the researchers added: "A lack of space affects quality of life. As well as simply allowing people to have a comfortable standard of living, additional space can also reduce stress by allowing members of the same household to engage in different activities at the same time, and ease feelings of claustrophobia experienced in small spaces."
Communities minister Stephen Williams said: "The current system of housing standards is complicated and confusing and is ripe for reform.
"That’s why we’re planning to make the whole system easier to understand and follow, consolidating housing standards so that all the requirements are in one place.
"This will enable councils and developers to better work together to build high-quality, sustainable and secure homes in communities across the country."
The report can be found here.