Our mission to ensure everyone benefits from living in a good home
The quality of a home has a fundamental bearing on an individual’s health and wellbeing and yet millions of people in England endure the hardship of living in sub-standard housing.
Our Homes Senior Evidence Manager, Millie Brown, explains the steps the Centre for Ageing Better is taking to try and ensure that living in a good home becomes an achievable reality for all.
What makes a good home?
It should be warm, safe with light and space. It should be flexible and adaptable to changing needs, particularly as people age. It should be easy to heat in winter and to cool in summer with access to outdoor space and connected to local amenities. A good home should also be affordable for the people who live in it.
These sound like basic fundamentals and many of us take them for granted. And yet for millions of people in England who are deprived of these essential conditions, they are currently unachievable aspirations.
- Around 10 million people in England live in a home that presents a serious threat to their health and safety
- Around 9,000 people die in cold homes in England and Wales every year
- Poor quality housing costs the NHS £1.4bn a year with more than half (£857 million) this figure spent treating people whose poor-quality homes expose them to extreme cold
- The cost to the NHS of treating people who fall and injure themselves at home is almost £400m a year
- Over 40% (43.5%) of the 15 million homes with an energy rating of D or below are headed by a single person or couple aged over 60. As homes with an energy rating of D or below are less efficient, so more costly to heat, this figure shows how older people are more likely to live in homes they cannot afford to keep at a safe temperature.
- Nine in ten homes currently do not meet minimum standards of accessibility. And the current baseline standard for building new homes, 'Category 1 or M4(1)', only requires new dwellings to have the features which make them visitable by everyone - for example, sufficiently wide doorways and a toilet at entrance level. This means that nine in ten homes cannot be visited by many people, let alone lived in.
In one of the wealthiest countries on the planet, it should not be this way. And the Centre for Ageing Better is determined that this must change. Having a safe, warm home is a basic human right and we want to ensure that it is a right enjoyed by all.
We are aware of the enormity of the task and we know that change will not happen overnight. Simply making all new builds accessible is not enough to solve the problem. The UK has some of the oldest, poorest quality and least energy efficient homes in Western Europe. The housing stock we have now is inadequate to meet people’s needs but this is only going to get worse as our population ages. But we believe that by working closely with others, we can deliver change that can have immeasurable impact on people’s wellbeing.
In order to do that, we believe that this country desperately needs an ambitious home improvement strategy to fix our poor housing stock and make the nation’s homes safe and warm for all.
At the moment, some people are fortunate to have support in home improvement services run by local authorities or other organisations in their area. But what is available to people is not uniform across the country meaning some people find it difficult to access the support they need.
A Good Home Hub in every area across England would provide a one-stop-shop service on all aspects of home repairs and adaptations to keep homes warm and safe.
We want to build on the good practice in home improvement services already in place through a network of Good Home Hubs to share best practice, supported by a national framework, so everyone can receive high-quality support, wherever they live in the country.
A Good Home Hub in every area across England would provide a one-stop-shop service on all aspects of home repairs and adaptations to keep homes warm and safe. It would offer advice on how to make homes more energy-efficient and cheaper to run, provide the information needed on how to meet the cost of repairs and help find trusted tradespeople to carry out any required work.
To build support for the Good Home Hub model we are bringing local authorities together in our Good Home Network with Foundations, the national body for Disabled Facilities Grants and Home Improvement Agencies, to explore ways to improve poor-quality homes in their communities by sharing insights, supporting each other, inspiring innovation and finding solutions to some of the challenges they face.
We are also working with partners in Lincolnshire to test how a Good Home Hub might work in the county and identify what home improvement services local people most need and how best to deliver them.
And we have just commissioned a national evaluation of different models of housing support across England. This will not only develop our understanding of what works for delivering home improvement services locally but also provide evidence of the impact of these services on individuals, on the organisations that deliver home improvement support and on public services more widely including the health and social care sectors. The evaluation will take place over the next 18 months and findings will be released at regular intervals throughout.
A good home is much more than just bricks and mortar. It can be the difference between enjoying good health, financial stability and lives that are independent yet socially connected. It’s time that more of us felt the benefits of a good home, not the costs of a bad home.