Housing quality has improved in recent years according to many metrics but there are still substantial numbers of poor-quality homes across the country. There are many ways to measure the quality of housing including the Decent Homes standard, the Housing Health and Safety rating system (HHSRS), damp, and dwelling size amongst others.
The Decent Homes programme was introduced in 2000 at a time when there was a substantial backlog in required social housing repairs. The programme was successful in reducing the overall number and proportion of non-decent homes but it failed to meet its target of 100% decent homes by 2010. The latest English Housing Survey (left-hand chart below) shows that 19% of all homes are not decent with 13% of social rented homes still failing to meet the standard. Although there is still room for improvement in the social rented sector, it is the private rented sector that has the highest proportion of non-decent homes with 1.35 million non-decent homes (25% of private rented homes). This may partly reflect that private rented homes are predominantly owned by small-scale landlords owning one or two typically older period properties.
Another way to measure the quality of housing is using the Housing Health and Safety rating system (HHSRS). The HHSRS was introduced in 2004 and is a risk-based assessment tool that identifies hazards in dwellings and evaluates their potential effects on the health and safety of occupants and their visitors. This recent House of Commons briefing paper provides a useful summary of the rating system including the ongoing review.
The English Housing Survey reports the number of dwellings that contain a HHSRS category 1 hazard (right-hand chart above) which is one that presents a serious and immediate risk to a person’s health and safety. The latest English Housing Survey shows that 11% of all dwellings contain a category 1 hazard, ranging from 6% in the social rented sector to 14% in the private rented sector.
Damp housing can have serious implications for residents, particularly for children and the elderly. The latest English Housing Survey shows that 3.7% of dwellings have at least one damp problem, with condensation/mould the biggest issue. Damp is a bigger issue in the rented sectors, with 5.6% of social rented homes and 7.2% of private rented sector homes reporting at least one damp problem. The higher levels of damp in the private rented sector are a serious concern given the large number of young children now living in the tenure.
Regular reports that housing in England is amongst the smallest in Europe are incorrect. The English Housing Survey reports an average size of 94m², about average for Europe. However, there are differences across tenure (chart below) with the owner -occupied sector largest (107m²), followed by the private rented sector (77m²) and the social rented sector smallest (66m²). Some of these differences will reflect the underlying mix of dwelling types but adjusting for this still shows a space premium for owner-occupiers.