40 per cent of homes not up to standard

FORTY per cent of homes in Britain are not up to the “living home standard” according to a report released on Monday by the charity Shelter.

Shelter has set the “living home standard” to be the equivalent of the “living wage” — not what you can just get by with but what you need to live a decent life.

Shelter created the living home standard over nine months, using a survey of the general public undertaken by Ipsos Mori for Shelter and British Gas, to set out the most important criteria that a decent home should meet.

This involved discussion groups, workshops and quantitative surveys as well as an online community. The result is a list of 39 attributes that define the Living Home Standard, split between essentials that all homes must meet and “tradables” that take account of differing needs and priorities between households. It is a standard that applies to all homes, irrespective of their tenure, size or age.

Initial research into different aspects of housing uncovered five key themes: affordability, decent conditions, space, stability and neighbourhood.

Each of the five elements in the standard is measured according to certain criteria — for example, the essentials of “space” include having sufficient bedrooms for the household and space for the whole household to spend time together in the same room. Other aspects included having outdoor space, and enough space for children to study and adults to work.

They did another survey of around 2000 households to find out what proportion of homes meet these criteria.

Just over a quarter failed on affordability, while almost a fifth failed to meet the standard because of poor conditions, with problems including persistent pests, damp and safety hazards.

Ten per cent failed because of insecurity about the period of occupancy. The region with the highest number of homes to fail was London, with 73 per cent of those questioned saying their home did not meet all of the benchmarks.

This was followed by Wales and the East Midlands, where the figure was 49 per cent. The smallest percentage of fails was recorded in Yorkshire and the Humber, at 27 per cent.


The failures on affordability and stability seemed to reflect problems in the housing market as a whole as much as difficulties with individual properties, with respondents saying that they were concerned about the cost of their homes going up, or were unable to meet their rent or mortgage without regularly cutting back on essentials, or that they felt they did not have enough control over how long they can live in their home.

Shelter, which this year celebrated its 50th anniversary, said it wanted to capture these issues alongside those that were covered by existing decent homes and space standards because they reflected the public’s concerns about housing.

It called on the Government, businesses and other charities to help it increase the number of homes reaching the standard.

Shelter’s chief executive, Campbell Robb, said: “When Shelter was founded 50 years ago, it was with the hope that one day everyone in the country would have access to a place they can truly call home.”

The charity gave the example of a tenant called Emma from Folkestone and her family who have had to move nine times. She said: “In the time we’ve been renting we’ve had problems with damp, a broken boiler for months, no gas safety checks in one flat — you have to wait an age to get things fixed and then deal with huge rent increases if they do.

“Because of how much our housing costs were, we have a strict week-by-week food budget, and every time we started saving for our own place something’s happened — like my husband’s been made redundant, or we’ve had to move because of a rent increase.”

Pensioners Ian and Esmee Woolcomb, aged 62 and 72, have lived in their cramped one-bedroom flat in Bristol for 10 years. Their home fails three of the five Shelter standards and it has no living room. Ian says the flat is “dark and damp” and “gets cold quickly, so we have to put the heating on quite often.” They are desperate to move and have written several letters to the council with no success. “I was quite hopeful at first but now I’m thinking ‘Oh my God. I don’t want to die here’,” Esmee said. “I get very depressed about it when I think about it.”