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Bringing down the house

With the evident and increasing demand for affordable housing, the conditions of properties already in occupation are often overlooked.

Over the last 9 months, the housing charity Shelter in co-operation with British Gas has compiled research into a report highlighting the housing needs of modern families and collectively defining them as “The Living Home Standard”. This definition of living home standards focuses on the key areas put forth by the public including affordability, decent conditions, available space, character of neighbourhood and likelihood of eviction.

From this research it is estimated that 43% of British homes do not meet this standard and every “4 out of 10 homes” are affected. Within the social housing sector, approximately 68% of Local Authority houses fail to meet living standards in comparison to 66% of Housing Association properties.

In practice, the most common disrepair issues include but are not limited to damp, mould, leaks, heating, hot water, structural defects and electrics. With tenants forced to remain in these inadequate properties due to desperation, it is no wonder that there is deterioration, creation and exacerbation of medical conditions such as asthma and mental health problems. As a result, doctors and MP’s are regularly asked to write to landlords often with little response and without solicitor intervention.

With landlords cutting corners or making temporary fixes to these reported issues, tenants are often left in a worse state and subjected to the reoccurrence of disrepair or new disrepair. In our experience vulnerable families with young children or a family member who is disabled have been left without useable essential facilities from a few months to years on end. In some cases these tenants have been forced to use facilities at their local swimming pools or heavily rely on family and friends for support.

It is evident that there is a need for an increase in the building of social housing, but it is imperative that properties already established are not disregarded and the responsibility of maintaining a decent standard of living is upheld.