Professor Danny Dorling, the Halford Mackinder Professor of Geography at the University of Oxford, appeared before the House of Lords economic affairs committee and said the changing use of housing can be seen in census statistics.
He said the issue raises questions about how the elderly are housed, advocating the construction of homes for the elderly.
Professor Dorling said: “The way we can tell we are overconsuming is you can look at every census for the last 100 years and every census measured how many people there were and how many rooms there were.
“By the last census, by 2011, the best-off tenth of the population had five times more rooms per person than the worst-off tenth, it had shot up from 1991. The last high point was 1921
“So you have had an incredible increase in inequality in the distribution of rooms between groups of the population.”
He said this had happened for two reasons: one was the ageing population and the other was increased inequalities of income and wealth.
Professor Dorling said: “Short term huge number of people are rattling around in relatively large houses on their own that they find hard to heat and they would like to move but there is not suitable accommodation nearby for them and they want to keep their friends so one way to reduce the overconsumption is to build housing for elderly people nearby where they currently live.
“The other way is anything you do that affects house prices which that means somebody sitting in a large house doesn’t think the value of that house will carry on rising and the longer you hang on in there on your own the more money you will be able to give to your children and grandchildren.
“There is a perverse incentive to stay in a house that you find hard to heat at the moment because it benefits your wider family.”
He said the main reason for population growth in the UK has not been immigration or fertility but ageing but he said the UK does not have an “established model” for housing in old age.