The most recent annual report from the English Housing Survey tells us there are 24.4 million dwellings in England, including both occupied and vacant homes. Of these, 15.6 million (64 per cent) are owner occupied, 4.7 million (19 per cent) are privately rented, while 1.6 million (7 per cent) are rented from local authorities and 2.5 million (10 per cent) from housing associations.
The age of these properties varies by tenure with the private rented sector having the highest proportion of older dwellings built before 1919, at 23 per cent compared with just 6 per cent in the social rented sector.
In the social sector, most of the council housing was built between 1945 and 1980, 72 per cent compared with 47 per cent of HA homes. Just 11 per cent of the council stock was built after 1980, compared with 38 per cent of HA homes.
The majority of private sector dwellings are houses and bungalows (84 per cent compared with 56 per cent of social sector stock). There are very few detached houses in the social sector (under 1 per cent), and more purpose built high-rise flats (36 per cent, compared to 11 per cent in the private sector).
In 2019, high-rise purpose built flats made up 2 per cent of the country’s stock (499,000 dwellings). Such flats are more prevalent in the council sector (9 per cent) than HAs (3 per cent) stock. In the private sector, 1 per cent of owner occupied dwellings and 4 per cent of dwellings in the private rented sector are high-rise purpose built flats.
The private rented sector has a comparatively high proportion of converted flats (12 per cent compared with 3 per cent of social rented and 2 per cent of owner occupied stock) while the social rented sector has a comparatively high proportion of low-rise purpose built flats (36 per cent compared with 25 per cent of private rented and 6 per cent of owner occupied stock),
Dwelling sizes and conditions
The average usable floor area of dwellings in 2019 was 95 square metres. Homes in the social sector tend to be smaller (66m) than homes in the private rented sector (76m). Owner occupied homes (108m) are, on average, larger than social and private rented homes.
Nine per cent of dwellings in the social rented sector had a usable floor area of 90 square metres or over, in contrast with 21 per cent of homes in the private rented sector and 54 per cent of owner occupied homes.
For a dwelling to be considered ‘decent’ under the Decent Homes Standard it must:
- meet the statutory minimum standard for housing (the Housing Health and Safety System (HHSRS) since April 2006), homes which contain a Category 1 hazard under the HHSRS are considered non-decent;
- provide a reasonable degree of thermal comfort;
- be in a reasonable state of repair; and
- have reasonably modern facilities and services.
In 2019, a total of 4.1 million homes or 17 per cent failed to meet the Decent Homes Standard, down from 6.7 million homes or 30 per cent in 2009.
Among owner occupied homes, 16 per cent failed to meet the Decent Homes Standard in 2019.
Statistics published for council housing shows the number and proportion of non-decent local authority homes has increased slightly, with councils reporting that 5 per cent of their homes did not meet the Decent Homes Standard in 2020, compared to 4 per cent in 2019.
The HHSRS is a risk-based assessment that identifies hazards in dwellings and evaluates their potential effects on the health and safety of occupants and their visitors, particularly vulnerable people. The most serious hazards are called Category 1 hazards and where these exist in a home, it fails to meet the statutory minimum standard for housing in England.
In 2019, 10 per cent of the housing stock had a HHSRS Category 1 hazard, down from 21 per cent in 2009. Such hazards are more prevalent in the private rented sector (13 per cent) than owner occupied housing stock (10 per cent) and the social rented sector (5 per cent).
Dampness and mould
In 2019, 820,000 homes (3 per cent) had problems with damp, down from 2.6 million (13 per cent) of homes in 1996. The incidence of damp has declined in the past decade, down from 8 per cent in 2009 to 3 per cent in 2019, but the rate of decline has slowed markedly since 2011.
In 2019, 2 per cent of homes had problems with condensation and mould, while 1 per cent are affected by rising damp and a further 1 per cent by penetrating damp.
Damp problems are more prevalent in the rented sectors. Some 7 per cent of private rented dwellings have some type of damp problem, compared with 4 per cent of social rented dwellings and 2 per cent of owner occupied homes.
Private rented dwellings are, on average, older and therefore more likely to have defects to the damp proof course, roof covering, gutters, or down pipes, which could lead to problems with rising or penetrating damp affecting at least one room in the property.
In 2019/20, 91 per cent of households had at least one working smoke alarm. The proportion of households with working smoke alarms varies according to tenure type. Social tenants are the most likely to have at least one working smoke alarm (96 per cent), compared with 91 per cent of owner occupiers, and 89 per cent of private renters.
Between 2014/15 and 2019/20, the proportion of households with a working smoke alarm increased from 88 to 91 per cent. This increase was seen across all tenures. Between 2018/19 and 2019/20 there was an increase in the proportion of social rented homes with a working smoke alarm from 95 to 96 per cent.
While the proportion of homes with smoke alarms has increased in recent years, over a fifth of households (22 per cent) reported that they had never tested their smoke alarm.
In 2019/20, 31 per cent of private renters and 26 per cent of social renters reported that they had never tested their smoke alarm, higher than the proportion of owner occupiers who had never tested their smoke alarm (19 per cent).
In 2019, 44 per cent of all dwellings had a carbon monoxide alarm, up from 42 per cent in 2018. Dwellings with a solid fuel burning appliance, such as a coal fire or wood burning stove, were more likely (52 per cent) to have a carbon monoxide alarm than dwellings with no solid fuel appliance (43 per cent).
From October 2015, private sector landlords have been required to install a carbon monoxide alarm in any room containing a solid fuel burning appliance. They were also required to ensure the alarm was working at the beginning of each new tenancy.
In 2019, 47 per cent of private rented sector dwellings with a solid fuel appliance had a carbon monoxide alarm.
By Patrick Mooney, Editor