Smith Institute - Report Review

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16 October, 2018

Jennifer Hankinson

Last week saw the release of a report, at the NHC Northern Housing Summit 2018 (attended by Jennifer Hankinson Head of Development - Housing & Regeneration (Property) at Forbes), on: "The Hidden Costs of Poor Quality Housing in the North" written by the Smith Institute and commissioned by the Northern Housing Consortium (NHC) and sponsored by Liverpool City Region Combined Authority and Karbon Homes.

The report highlights the scale of the problem and the increased health impacts of those living in homes that are below the acceptable standards of decency as inthe North there are 997,000 owner-occupied homes and 354,000 private rented homes which fail to qualify as decent homes. This issue of disrepair is of vital concern for the older generation given that they live in over 50% of these homes - well above the England average. The report found this to be a nationwide problem but worse in the North due to concentrations of pre-war low-value properties.

The report also linked poor condition housing as being harmful to health and well-being, which consequently carries considerable costs for the NHS and social care system, as well as negative economic, welfare and environmental impacts.

What is a 'decent home'?

The Decent Homes Standard (2006) is the minimum standard of homes which was implemented via the Decent Homes Programme for social housing initially which was later extended to those homes in the private sector. To qualify the homes must:

  • Be free from hazards posing a serious threat to the occupiers' health and safety
  • Be in a reasonable state of repair
  • Have reasonably modern facilities and services
  • Have access to efficient heating and insulation - providing a reasonable degree of thermal comfort

The report has identified a significant increase in non-decent homes in the North from 20% in 2013 to 31% in 2018, 9% of which fall within the social housing sector.

Although progress has been made in reducing the number of non-decent homes in the North and improving social housing, the report states, a lack of investment into private housing and housing for older people has caused that progress to regress. to the report calls for reverse of this regression as failure to improve housing conditions can result in:

  • Low property values and rental yields
  • Lack of regeneration
  • Loss of stock and demand for new homes
  • Increase in the spreads of low rent private rented sector homes

Report's Recommendations

The report calls for:

  • A new Decent Private Homes grants programme, arguing that there is strong evidence that intervention costs would be offset against reduced care and health expenditure.
  • Increased investment in the existing stock to bring public and private homes up to at least the decent homes standard.
  • Mayors (via devolution) to reshape to relationship between the housing sector and local authorities by taking stock conditions surveys to identify costs and savings to enable home improvements or options for older people to move into more suitable accommodation.
  • Increased public awareness of what decent housing is and advice on the funding available.

Although the report suggests a number of recommendations to 'fix' the North's broken housing market, and both Andy Burnham and Steve Rotheram attended the Summit in support of the report's findings with a view to driving forward the recommendations, the case needs to be made before the government to set out a policy for change both locally and nationally and encourage investment in this area. In the coming months, the NHC will be working with members and stakeholders to open up the debate to help find creative solutions to these problems. Further work will be carried out to highlight the clear links between poor quality housing and the impact it has on older people's health and ability to stay in their homes for longer.

If you are looking for any more information with regards to our services view our Housing & Regeneration section. You can also contact Jennifer Hankinson in our Housing & Regeneration department via email or phone on 01772 220199. Alternatively send any question through to Forbes Solicitors via our online Contact Form.

Learn more about our Housing & Regeneration department here

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