- Published: October 10, 2018
Sub-standard private housing is a major problem in the North, yet the issue is overlooked and rarely discussed. The problem affects all three regions and is a particularly urgent concern for many older homeowners. Nearly 1m owner-occupied homes in the North now fail to meet the decent homes standard in addition to 354,000 private rented homes. This is also a national problem, but worse in the North where there are concentrations of pre-war, low value properties.
There have been improvements in housing conditions across the North, notably for social housing (only 9% of social housing is now non-decent), but more and more private homes are falling into disrepair. Nearly half of all non-decent homes in the North have at least one person with a long-term illness or disability or over 60 – well above the England average. 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.
The problem is largely hidden and has been made worse by the economic downturn and a national policy bias towards new build in high demand (mainly Southern) areas. Making all homes in the North decent would be a significant cost, though there is strong evidence that this intervention would be offset against reduced care and health costs. The government could start to address this challenge through increased home improvement grants under a new Decent Private Homes programme and new devolution housing deals, part funded by the savings gained from housing improvements and a creative approach to help people to stay in improved homes or be given the choice to move to a property they are confident better suits their needs.
Opening up the debate on the costs and benefits of poor condition homes in the North is an important first step in developing such an agenda for change.