20 May 2021

England’s crumbling housing stock thanks to lack of government action, says new report

New report by UK Collaborative Centre for Housing Evidence says lack of action from the central government has contributed to housing quality crisis in England.

A house in Chesham, Buckinghamshire.
Chesham, Buckinghamshire. Image by Centre for Ageing Better.

According to a new report by the UK Collaborative Centre for Housing Evidence (CaCHE), a lack of action from the central government has contributed to a crisis in housing quality with ten million people living in homes that don’t meet basic standards, and are a serious health hazard. 

The report, ‘Past, present and future: housing policy and poor quality homes’, was commissioned to inform the Good Home Inquiry, and found that while the government has a crucial role in protecting the nation’s housing stock, dramatic funding cuts and failure to act have left England’s homes crumbling. 

Professor David Robinson, Co-Investigator at CaCHE and Head of the Urban Studies and Planning Department at the University of Sheffield, said: "Housing is a valuable national asset that we need to look after better. Decent housing is important to health and well-being. 

“It is a national resource that needs to be protected for the benefit of future generations – in 50 years most people will be living in houses that are already built. It is therefore a major cause for concern that so many houses in England are in need of repair and improvement and don't meet decency standards.”

While recent governments have invested heavily in subsidising new housing development, existing housing stock has been largely ignored and those at greatest risk have suffered the most, exacerbating inequalities. The new report warns that cutting funding for housing improvement is a false economy, leading to greater pressure and spending on health and social care and undermining efforts to meet carbon reduction targets and tackle the climate emergency. 

The report calls for a co-ordinated national strategy to reinstate enforcement of housing standards, the development of local hubs to coordinate holistic home improvement and retrofit, and long term national funding for locally delivered improvements to the quality of homes for the benefit of current and future generations. 

“Owners have a responsibility for maintaining their property, but the government also has a key role to play,” said Professor Robinson. “It is therefore concerning that the national framework for housing improvement is falling into disrepair. The research by the CaCHE team spotlights three immediate priorities for action. Enforce existing standards and requirements, put in place the local infrastructure to deliver improvements in quality, and fund targeted interventions. Failing to act is a false economy."

David Orr, Chair of the Good Home Inquiry, said: “As the government moves forward with its ambition to decarbonise homes, attempting to address energy efficiency in isolation would be a big mistake. Instead, all the elements of a good home should be addressed through a holistic retrofit strategy.

“The government must ensure that improving England’s housing stock is part of a coordinated effort to improve the quality of all our homes – so that no-one is forced to live in a house that is cold, damp or inaccessible.” 

The Good Home Inquiry, commissioned by the Centre for Ageing Better, is an Inquiry into England’s housing policies to determine causes of, and solutions to, the country’s current housing crisis. Although sponsored by Ageing Better, the Inquiry will be led by an independent panel and chaired by David Orr. The Inquiry supports Ageing Better’s goal of reducing the number of homes classed as ‘non-decent’ by at least one million by 2030. 

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