There are one million non-decent owner-occupied homes in the North – and a further 345,000 private rented sector properties unfit and fail to meet the decent homes standard.
These findings from a new report also show that of those one million homes, over half are occupied by at least one person over 60 or with a long-term illness or disability.
The report: The Hidden costs of Poor Quality Housing in the North, was commissioned by the Northern Housing Consortium (NHC) and written by the Smith Institute, an independent public policy think tank.
Sponsored by Liverpool City Region Combined Authority and Karbon Homes, the study highlights the scale of the problem and the increased health impacts of those living in homes that are not fit for purpose.
Jo Boaden, Chief Executive, NHC said: “We are acutely aware that new homes are urgently needed across the North and there has been an understandable focus on finding ways to achieve this.
“However, new supply in the North accounts for less than 1% of the North’s housing stock and so we cannot forget about the critical importance of maintaining, improving or adapting existing homes.”
Despite an older housing stock, the North is acknowledged as having made good progress in reducing the number of non-decent homes, with huge improvement made to the social housing stock over the past 20 years.
However, lack of investment for private housing, particularly for older people, is starting to reverse the trend, so the level of unfit homes is increasing.
The study shows too many areas of the North have low value, poor quality houses with little or no equity – a situation that has not changed since the financial crisis 10 years ago.
On the back of the report, the NHC, a membership body, calls for more focus on improving the North’s existing housing stock.
The report suggests the challenges could be addressed by increased support for home improvement under a new Decent Private Homes programme and new devolution housing deals.
Stock condition surveys could evaluate the potential costs and savings.
To NHC, this could be part-funded by recycling identified savings into local or city region funding pots for home improvements, or for older people to be given the choice to move to a property that better suits their needs.
New devolution deals are pitched as having the potential to make this work.
Paul Hackett, Director, The Smith Institute, said: “The number of retired homeowners living in non-decent properties is alarming.
“All the focus has been on increasing housing supply, and not enough attention has been given to the quality of existing homes.
“Urgent action is needed across the North to tackle the problem of disrepair – perhaps it is time for a Decent Homes programme for the North, focused on helping low income older homeowners?” he said.
In the coming months, the NHC will be working with members and stakeholders to open up the debate to help find creative solutions to these problems.
Further work will be carried out to highlight the clear links between poor quality housing and the impact it has on older people’s health and ability to stay in their homes for longer.
Analysis of the English Housing Survey 2016 by the Smith Institute found 997,000 owner-occupied homes in the North (North East, North West and Yorkshire and the Humber) fail to meet the government’s decent homes standard.
There are an additional 354,000 private rented homes which are non-decent.
For the North, the number of new builds has been 0.5% of total stock in each of the last three years (since 2015) according to the survey.
The analysis of the Survey by the Smith Institute also found that there has been a slight increase in non-decent homes in the North, from 20% in 2013 to 22% in 2016.
The North now has a slightly higher proportion of England’s non-decent homes (31%) than it did in 2007/08 (29%).