High-rise homes are overheating, overcrowding is on the rise, and a quarter of private rented homes fail to meet the Decent Homes Standard. Christine Murray delves into the detail
High-rise homes are overheating, overcrowding is on the rise, and a quarter of private rented homes fail to meet the Decent Homes Standard, the English Housing Survey 2018-19 reveals, painting a bleak picture of the state of housing in the context of a climate emergency.
The survey reveals that 25% of private rented homes are “non-decent” compared to 17% of owner-occupied homes and just 12% of homes in the social rented sector.
For the first time since 2010, the total number of non-decent private rental homes has increased, from 1.175m non-decent homes to 1.182m. While this growth is not statistically significant, it does show how progress in reducing the proportion of non-decent housing stock has stalled.
Under the Decent Homes Standard, a home must meet the statutory minimum standard for housing (the Housing Health and Safety Rating System), provide a reasonable degree of thermal comfort, be in a reasonable state of repair and have reasonably modern facilities and services to be considered decent.
The number of “non-decent” private and social rented homes has fallen significantly over the past 10 years, from 44% of private rented and 27% of social rented homes in 2008, but the report shows recent years have seen no improvement in the proportion of non-decent homes.
The survey also shows that the number of private and social renters living in overcrowded conditions has increased, with 8% of social renters and 6% of private renters living in an overcrowded home. Overcrowding in the social rented sector is the highest it has been since 1995-96.
The survey reveals that homes in the social sector tend to be smaller (66m²) than homes in the private rented sector (76m²). Owner-occupied homes (108m²) are larger on average than social and private rented homes.
Concerns over the lack of decent homes in the rental sector are concerning given the growing proportion of private renters.
The survey shows older people are now more likely to be renting: the number of 35 to 44-year-olds in the private rented sector rose over the past 10 years from 16% in 2008-09 to 29% in 2018-19, while the proportion of people aged 55-64 living in the private rented sector increased from 7% in 2008-09 to 10% in 2018-19.
After an increase in homeownership, the survey shows an equal proportion (41%) of people aged 25-34 are owner-occupiers or private renters.
The survey also reveals a growing problem associated with overheating, especially in newer homes. The survey found that 12% of residents in high-rise flats reported that part of their home got uncomfortably hot.
Those living in homes built after 2003 were the most likely to report overheating (9%), while residents in homes built prior to 1965 were the least likely to feel uncomfortably hot. Owner-occupiers are more likely to report overheating (8%) than social renters (6%).
The survey also reveals that measures to increase insulation and double glazing rates have flatlined.
In 2015, Public Health England predicted that, due to climate change, heat-related deaths would rise to 12,500 by 2080, with winter-related deaths falling from 41,000 to 36,500.
There is an estimated 500 high-rise buildings proposed and approved for construction in the UK, with 70% of these residential.
The survey report follows the Place Alliance’s national audit of housing developments, which claims one in five masterplans should have been denied planning permission outright, with some evidence that poor design is being approved on appeal.
A Housing Design Audit for England evaluated the public atmosphere and layouts of 142 large-scale housing schemes in England. The report slams large developers and government for failing to create decent neighbourhoods with quality public space and a “sense of place”.
“This fatally undermines the government’s own policy on design in the National Planning Policy Framework. It sends a message that design quality does not matter,” the report states.