London has highest percentage of poor quality homes, with renters most-affected
According to the research from the Resolution Foundation, renters are also most likely to suffer from stress and poor mental health.
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Londoners are more likely to live in homes impacted by damp, mould and other states of disrepair than any other region in the UK, new analysis has shown.
In total, 16% of respondents living in London occupy “poor quality housing”, which is defined as homes reporting issues with damp, not being in a good state of repair, and the heating, electrics or plumbing not kept in good working order.
The report, which investigated the impacts of poor quality housing on residents during the cost-of-living crisis, was produced by the think-tank Resolution Foundation, based on a YouGov survey of 10,122 adults in March 2023.
Authored by Lalitha Try, an economist at the Resolution Foundation, the research demonstrates how those living in social housing or were privately renting were more likely to be hit by a range of pressures than those with a mortgage or who owned their property outright.
Higher percentages of social renters (15%) and private renters (10%) were reported to have fallen behind on their housing costs in the three months to March, for example, compared to just 4% of mortgagors and 1% of outright homeowners.
The research also indicates that those living in poor quality housing have a higher probability of suffering from poor mental health and stress, and have heightened concerns about meeting housing costs in the coming months.
Concluding her report by writing that there needs to be a focus on building new, affordable housing, both for rent and purchase, Ms Try describes how variances in housing quality have exacerbated “the adverse effects of an economic, social and health crisis”.
She adds: “The cost of living crisis is primarily an energy crisis: energy bills for a typical household in 2022-23 were 69 per cent higher than they were pre-pandemic (2019- 20).
“There are several ways in which this could affect health and wellbeing: difficulties in paying to heat one’s home has worsened health for some, but pre-existing housing quality problems – such as damp and mould – are likely to have been exacerbated by residents’ inability to heat their homes.”
The risks posed to those living in such properties were tragically highlighted last year, when two-year-old Awaab Ishak died from black mould present in his one-bedroom flat in Rochdale.
Westminster City Council
Westminster City Council is among the London authorities to have been rapped by the Housing Ombudsman over mould in its housing stock in recent months, after it failed to act for more than two years at one property it knew was home to a newborn baby.
Richard Blakeway, England’s Housing Ombudsman, wrote in his report: “The landlord failed to evidence that it had taken into account the individual circumstances of the resident either in respect of its handling of the repairs or in its decision to refuse to decant the resident and her son.
“The landlord also failed to recognise, given the age of the resident’s son, the risk of detrimental impact on his health and well-being.”
In response, Westminster City Council said it has learnt lessons from the case and “initiated numerous pieces of work” to improve how it identifies, records and tailors services to support vulnerable housing residents.
‘Tenants deserve better’
A report recently published by the London Housing Directors’ Group and supported by London Councils has attempted to address some of the above issues, specifically in London’s social housing stock.
Entitled Delivering for Tenants: The Foundations of an Effective Local Authority Landlord Service, it is based on five foundations to support boroughs to better their services; vision and strategy, leadership, management, performances and compliance, and assurance.
According to London Councils, more than one in every ten homes in the capital is let by a local authority, yet tenant satisfaction is lower than the rest of the country.
Cllr Darren Rodwell, London Councils’ executive member for regeneration, housing and planning, said: “Boroughs are proud social landlords. Social housing is a vital part of London’s infrastructure that provides affordable homes for hundreds of thousands of Londoners.
“However, the social housing sector is under massive pressure. Too often we have seen examples of tenants living in poor-quality housing and receiving a substandard service. Our tenants deserve better. Everyone should have a home that they can be proud of.
“This report will help us make that ambition a reality and I am grateful to everyone – especially tenants – who contributed to putting it together.
“When it comes to deciding the future of social housing in London, national policy and investment decisions remain fundamental factors. Boroughs will continue to work with ministers on this important agenda and push for the funding required to support our shared goals.”
The mayor of London’s office was approached for comment.