Twenty-nine per cent of English homes are not ‘decent’ places to live, according to the latest edition of the English House Condition Survey.
They fail to meet the ‘decent homes standard’, a measure of the quality of the housing stock, which includes criteria such as state of repair, health and safety, damp and mould, and heating and insulation.
The decent homes standard is not intended to be a measure of poverty or even a proxy, but it could be viewed as an important component. Indeed, the Poverty Site lists this index as one dimension of poverty. And unlike many ‘poverty’ measures, which equate income inequality with ‘social exclusion’, this indicator is based on concrete information about the conditions people experience in the real world.
Current anti-poverty policies are often synonymous with income redistribution – new entitlements are created and existing ones expanded. But this kind of government programme would be unlikely to solve the problem of ‘housing poverty’.
The proportion of people occupying non-decent homes does not vary enormously across income quintiles or tenures. The main determinant of housing quality is dwelling age – the older the building, the worse the performance.
An effective way to tackle housing poverty is therefore to allow more new homes to be built. This means thinking about alternatives to the UK’s highly restrictive land-use planning system.