Housing conditions ‘steadily improving’ in Wales

First such survey since 2008 shows improvement across all tenure types – with social housing generally of better quality than private.

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Housing conditions in Wales have improved across all tenures over the past decade, a new survey shows.

Released today (Dec 6), the Welsh Housing Conditions Survey (WHCS) 2017-18 – last undertaken in 2008 – collected information about the condition and energy efficiency of all types of occupied housing in Wales to also reveal steady improvements in energy efficiency and safety in housing.

Energy efficiency and environmental performance is measured by the Standard Assessment Procedure (SAP).

Overall the average SAP rating across all housing tenures in Wales increased by 11 SAP points between 2008 – 2017-18 to 61, which is equivalent to an Energy Performance Certificate Band D.

The private rented sector in Wales showed the biggest increase, with a rise of 13 SAP points.

Housing and Regeneration Minister Rebecca Evans said: “It’s really encouraging to see that since the last survey, housing conditions have improved across all tenures in Wales.

“The links between poor housing and poor health are well documented – we are investing £1.7bn in housing because it is an investment to tackle fuel poverty and to improve people’s health and wellbeing.”

The Welsh Government is also examining options to help to reduce carbon emissions across existing Welsh homes.

“Whilst this survey shows improvements, I am clear that there is more to do to reach our ambitious carbon reduction targets and to tackle fuel poverty,” said Evans.

Work will continue on the Housing Conditions Evidence Programme to maximise the use of existing data and to consider options for a future Housing Conditions Survey.

CIH Cymru director Matt Dicks said the encouraging findings were “clearly a result” of  considerable effort by housing professionals backed by Welsh Government investment to deliver the Welsh Housing Quality Standard.

“However, our “Perceptions of Housing” report, delivered through our Tyfu Tai Cymru project, highlighted that 47% of homeowners and 42% of private sector tenants would never want to live in social housing.

“The quality of homes in this part of the sector is something we all have a role to play in highlighting to the wider public,” said Dicks.

“In addition, with a focus on increasing the standards and sustainability of homes in the social housing sector it is also paramount that we support the ability of private sector landlords to invest in their homes, access skills and cutting-edge technologies.

“We urge the Welsh Government to do more to ensure that as we strive for better quality homes, we do not increase inequalities between homes across the different tenures.”

Sarah Scotcher, Policy Officer at Community Housing Cymru, said the survey was “welcome confirmation” of a sector moving in the right direction, with homes moving from a Band E energy efficiency rating to a Band D in the ten years since the last survey was taken.

“There’s still work to do to continue improving the quality of social housing in Wales, and deliver on our vision of a Wales where good housing is a basic right for all,” she said.

Alicja Zalesinska, Director of Tai Pawb, said, despite the survey findings, accessibility of homes in Wales remains a significant issue, as highlight by recent research from Tai Pawb.

“There is a dearth of data on accessible homes and to that end, we look forward to the reports on accessibility in the new year, with a view to the results being used to inform and shape housing developments in the future, with an emphasis on the need for more accessible homes,” she said.

The WHCS was carried out by the Building Research Establishment (BRE) on behalf of the Welsh Government with fieldwork running from August 2017 to April this year.

Property inspections were carried out by qualified surveyors, who performed a visual assessment of the interior and exterior of the property.

These inspections were timed to around 40-50 minutes, with some 20 minutes spent inside on a room by room inspection.

The surveyor also inspected the plot of the property and made an assessment of the local neighbourhood with data been weighted to be representative of the housing stock in Wales.

In 2017-18 there were an estimated 1.34m homes in Wales – an increase from 1.27m in 2008.

Overall, 69% of homes in Wales were owner occupied in 2017-18, the lowest rate since 1993 and a decrease of 4 percentage points compared with 2008.

In contrast, the percentage of privately rented homes was at its highest level since 1981 at 13%, but remains lower than the social rented sector.

There is a similar picture across the UK, however the private rented sector is larger than the social rented sector in England and Northern Ireland.

The survey showed Wales has the oldest housing stock in the UK with over a quarter of all dwellings (26%) built prior to 1919, compared with just 10% in Northern Ireland.

In contrast, Northern Ireland has the most modern housing stock, with 40% built since 1980.

The survey found 82% of Welsh homes free from Category 1 hazards in 2017-18, compared with 71% 2008.

Social housing had the highest rate of homes free from Category 1 hazards (93%), with private rented the lowest (76%), although the difference between private rented and owner-occupied was not statistically significant.

All tenures showed an improvement on 2008, with private rented showing the greatest improvement – though only 16 of the 29 hazards were assessed in 2008, whilst 26 were assessed in 2017-18.

Welsh Housing Conditions Survey – Key points

  • Since the last survey in 2008, housing conditions across all tenures in Wales have improved
  • Wales has the oldest housing stock in the UK, with similar spread of housing types
  • The proportion of homes in the private rented sector has increased considerably since 1981

The private rented sector generally has the oldest housing stock and a higher proportion of poor quality housing:

  • Social housing is generally of better quality than private housing (both owner occupied and private rented), as are newer houses
  • The average energy efficiency band has improved from Band E in 2008 to Band D in 2017-18

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