Today marks the launch of the Living Home Standard, a landmark report which outlines for the first time what the British public feel everyone deserves from a home.
This year marks Shelter’s 50th birthday and while we have had the chance to celebrate some of the successes we have had over the years, those celebrations have been bittersweet. Because in many ways, we wish we weren’t here at all; that we had succeeded in our founding ambition – to create a society where a safe, secure, affordable home was available to everyone and that homelessness had been eliminated.
But as we all know, the housing crisis looms larger than ever. It can often feel overwhelming and far removed from the reality of our day to day lives. We hear headlines outlining the scale of the problem: hundreds of thousands of homes need to be built, costing billions of pounds. But defining the problem through numbers alone makes it inaccessible and obscures the reality of the crisis.
In our 50th year we wanted to look beyond the units and numbers to the reality of people’s lives. We wanted to find out exactly what ‘home’ means to people. What, if anything, does the British public think everybody is entitled to? What do words like ‘affordable’, ‘security’ or ‘stability’, used regularly by policy makers and charities, really mean to people in practice, and how important are they?
The result is the Living Home Standard – a robust but realistic measure which outlines for the first time what the British public feel everyone deserves from a home.
With the Living Wage as our inspiration, we wanted something that would raise the bar for homes in this country. Through a series of discussion groups, workshops and surveys conducted by Ipsos MORI, we heard directly from the British public about what makes a house a home.
The responses we got were deeply personal and will be familiar to us all: having a place to relax and feel safe, having enough space to have friends over, knowing you’ll be in the same place long enough to decorate, to settle, to build a life. As the Living Wage does for incomes, the Living Home Standard goes beyond the bare minimum – a roof over your head – creating a common understanding of what we all need from a home.
We also wanted to find out how many people currently live in a home that meets this standard. At the moment we can say how many people in Britain own a house, how many people rent houses from someone else, and who does and doesn’t have a roof over their head. But we don’t have a single way of defining how many of those people actually live in a decent home.
Today’s research reveals that a shocking four in ten people (43%) in Britain live in homes which fail to meet the ‘Living Home Standard’. Perhaps unsurprisingly, most homes fall below the standard due to the impact of high housing costs, with over one in four people (27%) in Britain living in homes which fail on the public’s definition of affordability.
The research also shows that almost one in five (18%) live in homes which fail to meet the standard because of poor conditions, with problems cited by the public including persistent pests, damp or safety hazards. And the homes of almost one in ten people (10%) fail due to the public’s definition of instability, largely driven by renters who feel they don’t have enough control over how long they can live in their home.
Although these statistics may paint a gloomy picture, we know from Shelter’s history and the many achievements that have been won over the past 50 years, that change is possible. These problems, however intractable they may seem, are solvable.
We know that together we can create meaningful change for future generations. We’ve seen encouraging signs already from the new government that they are committed to tackling these problems, with important measures already introduced to get more homes built and improve conditions. What we need next is for everyone – the government, public, private and non-profit sectors – to come together in partnership and commit to increasing the number of homes that meet the Living Home Standard. We believe that a country as great as Britain can and should see everyone living in a place they can truly call home.