Charities call on government to halve the number of mouldy, dangerous homes in England

3.7 million homes are cold, in need of repair, or have serious hazards, analysis shows

Holly Bancroft
Social Affairs Correspondent
Monday 22 April 2024 00:02 BST
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Rishi Sunak’s government should halve the number of mouldy and unsafe homes within the next decade to stop the scandal of poor quality buildings ruining people’s health, a coalition of charities has said.

Nine charities, including St John’s Ambulance and The Runnymede Trust, are calling for national action over cold, damp homes – with a survey showing that one in four people are worried about the impact their unsuitable homes are having on their family’s health.

Eight million people currently live in 3.7 million dangerous homes that are cold, in need of repair or have serious hazards, according to one charity’s analysis of data from the English Housing Survey.

One in three people in the privately rented sector, who were surveyed by the charity The Centre for Ageing Better, said that they were worried about how their living conditions are affecting their health. This rose to almost one in two for housing association tenants.

More than half – 54 per cent – of over 2,000 people surveyed said that it has become more difficult to keep their home warm over the past two years. Two in five – 39 per cent – also said that it had become more difficult to keep their home in a good state of repair.

One in three people in the private rented sector said that they were worried about how their living conditions are affecting their health (PA)

The same research found that homes with poor energy efficiency are in the majority in three-quarters of parliamentary constituencies in England.

As well as calling for the number of unsafe homes to be halved, the nine charities are pressing for ‘Good Home Hubs’ to be set up. The shops would offer advice on home repairs, including where to find trusted tradespeople and improve energy efficiency.

In an attempt to crack down on dangerous homes, levelling-up secretary Michael Gove has proposed new rules for landlords to make them investigate hazards within 14 days, start repairs within a further seven days, and make emergency repairs within 24 hours.

Landlords who fail to meet the time limits may be taken to court under the plans.

The Independent revealed last year that one in eight privately rented homes poses a potentially life-threatening hazard to health. Around 615,000 properties contained serious defects such as damp, mould, pollutants, structural flaws and fire hazards that put the resident’s health at risk in 2022.

Henry Gregg, director of external affairs at Asthma + Lung UK, said they were supporting the campaign because “we know that respiratory infections can thrive in colder temperatures and poorly ventilated, damp environments”.

Lynn Perry, CEO of Barnardo’s, said that in the last 12 months more than 200,000 families had seen their children’s bed or bedding getting mouldy because they couldn’t afford to put the heating on.

Dr Carole Easton, chief executive at the Centre for Ageing Better, said: “No one should have to live in a dangerous home that damages their health or the health of their family. Poor quality housing is severely damaging the health of millions of children, adults and pensioners.”

A DLUHC spokesperson said: “Our goal is to halve the number of non-decent homes by 2030. We have already made good progress and reduced the number of non-decent homes by 2.5 million since 2010.

“We know we must go further which is why we are reviewing the Decent Homes Standard, to make sure everyone has a warm and safe place to call home.”

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