How can we tackle the financial barriers that prevent us from improving our homes?
The Good Home Inquiry is examining how to address the differing finance needs, from funding small repairs and adaptations to comprehensive, whole house upgrades.
In this guest blog, Vidhya Alakeson, founding Chief Executive of Power to Change and a panellist for the Good Home Inquiry, writes about the challenges around financing home improvements.
I have seen first-hand the impact poor-quality housing has, not only on individuals and families, but also on the wider health of the community. Good homes – comfortable, safe, adaptable and accessible – are essential for our wellbeing.
There are 4.3 million homes in England that fail to meet the basic standards of ‘decency’. Most of these homes contain serious hazards that risk the safety or wellbeing of their inhabitants – including excess cold, damp, or fall hazards.
There is also an urgent need to improve the energy-efficiency of all 26 million of England’s homes if the UK is to meet its international obligations to reach net zero- especially with the news that the government is set to announce more ambitious targets to reduce carbon emissions later this week. Aside from the fact that heating our homes constitutes around a quarter of all carbon emissions, there is a staggering human cost, with cold homes causing thousands of deaths every year.
Additionally, we are currently storing up huge problems for our future selves when it comes to the accessibility of our homes. In less than 20 years more than one in four of us will be over 65, and yet more than 90% of homes do not provide even basic accessibility features.
Upgrading our ageing housing stock is a major national and individual challenge that will require major investment. How do we rise to this challenge so that we have the homes we need, both now and for decades to come?
Investing in the 4.3 million homes that are still classified as ‘non-decent’ would be a starting point. The largest proportion of non-decent homes are owned and lived in by homeowners – some 3.8 million homes requiring a total of over £29 billion in repairs. We know from Natcen panel research that money is the biggest barrier, as many people who own their home are cash poor.
We have to enable homeowners to make the improvements and repairs their homes need – and this means help with the cost of renovations and energy retrofit. While some loans and grants are already available, in this country we do not have the level of funding or long-term strategic approach needed to tackle a challenge on this scale. One potential solution could be taking out a ‘renovation mortgage’ that is secured against your home or considering equity release loan schemes. Financing for these essential home improvements will require a combination of public investment, individual spending and private sector finance.
It's also important to recognise that not everything has to be done at once. Low-cost changes can make a big difference to the safety and warmth of a property. Changing heating systems can cost a lot but smaller changes can make a dent in the challenge, for example loft insulation, damp proofing and smaller repairs, such as installing grab rails and ramps. The challenge lies in coordinating and staging improvements to be done in the most efficient and affordable way.
The Good Home Inquiry is examining how to address these issues and the differing finance needs from funding small repairs and adaptations to comprehensive, whole house upgrades. We want to consider the routes to providing individuals and local government with the necessary financial support and how national funding can be deployed to make improvements at scale.
Join us at our webinar next week, where we will hear from a range of industry experts on the innovative solutions that can help us to tackle one of the most pressing issues facing us in the years ahead.