MORE than 40 per cent of people in Britain live in homes that fail to meet acceptable standards in cleanliness, space, and affordability, the housing charity Shelter says.
It has launched a new living-home standard, comparable to the living wage, based on what people need from a home. This includes criteria such as whether there are enough bedrooms for members of the household, whether there is any living space, and whether the surrounding neighbourhood is safe, as well as whether the home is clean and free from damp and pests.
Shelter carried out research using the pollsters Ipsos MORI, speaking to nearly 2000 people to find out what defined an acceptable home.
Their research suggests that one in four people live in homes that fail on grounds of affordability, and one in five live in homes that fail because of poor living conditions, such as damp, mould, or pests such as silverfish.
Overall, 43 per cent of people live in homes that fail to meet one of the criteria of the new living-home standard.
Affordability is the most common problem: Shelter said that 24 per cent of people were not able to save anything for unexpected costs after meeting their rent or mortgage, and 23 per cent worried that their rent or mortgage charges might become difficult to pay if they rose.
A further 18 per cent of people could not meet their housing costs without regularly cutting back on essentials such as food or heating, and 20 per cent could not do this without missing out on social activities, the charity said.
The chief executive of Shelter, Campbell Robb, said: “The sad truth is that far too many people in Britain right now are living in homes that just aren’t up to scratch — from the thousands of families forced to cope with poor conditions to a generation of renters forking out most of their income on housing each month and unable to save for the future.”
Shelter has said that it will publish an annual report on the new living-home standard to monitor conditions.
The Christian housing charity Housing Justice welcomed the new living-home standard, but said it feared that conditions were even worse among those who might have fallen outside the scope of the survey, including migrant workers, those with little English, and the frail elderly.
The Government launched a homelessness prevention programme this week. It includes £20 million for local authorities to work with at-risk people before they reach crisis point, and money to help rough-sleepers off the street.
The Church Urban Fund (CUF) has said that it plans to increase its provision to nearly 4000 bed spaces this winter, in response to a growing problem of homelessness. More than 800 volunteers are set to work in Manchester, Salford, Birmingham, Mansfield, and Great Yarmouth night shelters this winter, backed by joint ventures between the CUF and Church of England dioceses.