New report finds over 500,000 home owners in the North West are living in poor quality housing

The Northern Housing Consortium (NHC), a membership body, calls for more focus on improving the North West’s existing housing stock in light of a new report launched today.

A new study highlights there are over 500,000 non-decent owner-occupied homes in the North West – and a further 160,000 private rented sector properties that are unfit and fail to meet the decent homes standard.

Worryingly, of those 500,000 homes, over half are occupied by at least one person over 60 or with a long-term illness or disability.

The report: The Hidden costs of Poor Quality Housing in the North, was commissioned by the Northern Housing Consortium (NHC) and written by the Smith Institute, anindependent public policy think tank. It highlights the scale of the problem across the whole of the North and the increased health impacts of those living in homes that are unfit for purpose.

It is well known that poor condition housing harms people’s health and well-being. It also carries considerable costs for the NHS and social care system, as well as negative economic, welfare and environmental impacts.

Owner occupiers are often seen as asset rich and having the means to repair, improve or adapt their homes. However, this study shows that too many areas of the North have low value, poor quality houses with little or no equity – a situation that has not changed since the financial crisis 10 years ago.

Despite an older housing stock, the North has made good progress in reducing the number of non-decent homes, with huge improvement made to the social housing stock over the past twenty years.

However, lack of investment for private housing, particularly for older people, is starting to reverse the trend so the level of unfit homes is increasing.

These challenges could be addressed by increased support for home improvement under a new Decent Private Homes programme and new devolution housing deals. Stock condition surveys could evaluate the potential costs and savings. This then could be part funded by recycling identified savings into local or city region funding pots for home improvements, or for older people to be given the choice to move to a property that better suits their needs. New devolution deals could accelerate this work.

Steve Rotheram, Metro Mayor of Liverpool City Region said:

“We are, of course, aware of the challenges presented by an increasingly ageing population and this piece of work by the Smith Institute really brings this into sharp focus from a housing perspective. Across the Liverpool City Region, there are a number of projects designed to help people adapt their homes to ensure they are not only safe and accessible but also to make them more fuel efficient and so improve the quality of their homes, enabling them to continue to live healthier, more independent lives.

The scale of the challenge is compounded by the condition and age of our housing stock, the ageing profile of our population and the cuts to housing programmes in recent years.

Our focus, therefore, needs to be on presenting the evidence to government to make the case for increased resources to enable our partners to build on these initiatives to tackle this issue and, in doing so, to reduce the burgeoning pressure on our health and social care services.”

Jo Boaden, Chief Executive, NHC said:

“We are acutely aware that new homes are urgently needed across the North and there has been an understandable focus on finding ways to achieve this. However, new supply in the North accounts for less than 1% of the North’s housing stock and so we cannot forget about the critical importance of maintaining, improving or adapting existing homes.”

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.

Paul Hackett, Director, the Smith institute said:

“The number of retired homeowners living in non-decent properties is alarming. All the focus has been on increasing housing supply, and not enough attention has been given to the quality of existing homes. Urgent action is needed across the North to tackle the problem of disrepair. Perhaps it is time for a Decent Homes programme for the North, focused on helping low income older homeowners?”

The study was sponsored by Liverpool City Region Combined Authority and Karbon Homes.

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