New inquiry to explore ways to improve poor-quality housing

A damp window of a home.

Around 10 million people have spent the coronavirus lockdown in a home that is hazardous to their health, research has found as a new inquiry has been launched to tackle England’s housing crisis.

The Good Home Inquiry, sponsored by the charity the Centre for Ageing Better, will be led by an independent panel and chaired by David Orr CBE, the former chief executive of the National Housing Federation and chair of Clarion Housing Association.

The inquiry will look to explore past and present government housing policies and the experiences of people living in poor-quality homes to chart a way out of England’s deficit of affordable, accessible, and decent homes, especially for older and disabled people.

The launch of the inquiry comes as new data suggests that around 1.8 million adults in England are living in damp and/or cold housing, with over one in 10 of them (13%) living with health problems potentially caused or made worse by their poor living conditions.

Anna Dixon, chief executive of the Centre for Ageing Better, said: “As the data shows, this inquiry couldn’t have come sooner. Our homes are vital to our wellbeing and quality of life yet far too many of us are living in homes unsuitable to our needs and potentially damaging to our health – this needs to change.

“The Good Home Inquiry will be doing vital work examining how past and current policies have caused the current housing crisis and will push for change and action to ensure more people live in a safe and accessible home in future.”

The inquiry’s policy research will be used to make evidence-based recommendations for new and amended housing policies which would make it easier to upgrade, maintain and improve England’s homes, as well to build new high-quality homes.

It will cover mainstream housing for all age groups and tenure types, with a focus on creating a definition for a ‘good home’ rather than the government’s definition of a ‘decent home’.

It will also review the existing evidence on the relationship between health and housing, and what this means for the spread, recovery and future prevention of coronavirus.

The inquiry supports the Centre for Ageing Better’s goal of reducing the number of homes classed as ‘non-decent’ by at least one million by 2030, as the charity’s analysis shows that over 4.3 million homes in England don’t meet basic standards of decency.

The charity says that reducing the number of people living in non-decent homes would greatly improve millions of people’s quality of life and reduce costs associated to the NHS of caring for people with ill health related to poor housing.

David Orr, chair of the inquiry, said: “Too many people in the UK are living in homes that are unsuitable for their needs and dangerous to their health. For decades, poor housing policies have created this crisis where there is a lack of decent, accessible, and affordable housing in this country.

“With an ageing population, our homes need to be accessible and suitable for all ages and abilities. This inquiry will be a driver for change and action to ensure our homes are high quality, affordable and safe.”

The Good Home Inquiry is expected to report initial ideas for policy reforms early next year, with the inquiry set to conclude mid-year.

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