The last English House Condition Survey in 1991 showed 13 per cent of homes either failing to meet the Government's own modest fitness standards or in need of substantial repair. The majority of these homes (the homes of almost 6 million people) were either owner-occupied or let by small- scale landlords.
Since then the huge cut-back in government grants for home improvement (from pounds l.3bn in the mid-1980s to pounds 260m now), the discouraging effect of negative equity on investment in repairs and maintenance and the growth in the number of older, low-income home-owners suggest that in many areas the size of the problem is increasing. Many new home-owners on low incomes are unable to properly maintain their property without external help.
Repairs become more expensive the longer they are left. It is essential that a debate begins on how targeted public funding and perhaps tax concessions can be used to encourage the maintenance of existing housing.
Martin G Cruttenden
National Home Improvement Council, Birmingham