What makes a home a good place to live?
Ask a wide range of people and you’ll get many different answers including ‘chance would be a fine thing’ for the many thousands who are homeless. However, common themes do emerge, with housing security, safety and affordability high priorities in these uncertain times.
Adequate space, quality of neighbourhood and access to parks and green areas have emerged as important housing factors, impacting on physical and mental health during the Covid-19 pandemic. With rising fuel prices and awareness of the environmental impacts of domestic energy use, the need to make homes more affordable & efficient to heat is emerging as a top retrofit priority.
So how does our housing stock measure up to the aspiration of ‘Good homes for all’? – Not brilliantly.
Around 10 million people are living in 4.3 million non-decent homes (19% of all dwellings). Half of these non-decent homes (4 million) are lived in by an older person, and the large majority (78%) are homeowners, often living on low incomes and in disadvantaged areas. The number of over 75s living in a non-decent home is actually rising – up from 533,000 in 2012 to 701,000 in 2017.
This dire situation is putting older people’s health at risk, not to mention adding to NHS costs.
As a result of the Covid-19 pandemic many older people spending even more time at home, often alone and becoming increasingly socially isolated. The ‘Perfect Storm’ of poor housing and an ageing population really should be a high priority for concerted action to improve homes.
The publication of the findings of the Centre for Ageing Better’s ‘Good Home Inquiry’ is therefore a very welcome step in efforts to stimulate policy and practice improvements in this neglected area.
The recommendations for action include a call for a cross-government housing strategy with a ministerial champion to implement it. It also recommends the creation of a ‘Good Home Agency’ in every local area to provide access to information and advice about repairs, energy efficiency and retrofitting, as well as supporting residents with paying for and finding trusted tradespeople to carry out repairs.
With the arrival today (16.9.21) of a new Minister of State leading MHCLG, Michael Gove, let us hope that this urgent need to act to improve current homes makes it onto his priority list.
- The Kings Fund (2020) Homes, Health & Covid-19, Centre for Ageing Better
- Centre for Ageing Better and Care & Repair England (2020)
- Home & Dry: The need for decent homes in later lifeCare & Repair England (2010) A Perfect Storm: An ageing population, low income homeownership, and decay of older housing