New dialogue to improve housing in England and inform Good Homes Inquiry

As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the majority of people have spent more time at home than ever before and the impact of poor living conditions on people’s physical and mental health is becoming indisputably more apparent. Despite the increased recognition of the impact that our homes have on our health, currently it is estimated that there are 4.1 million homes in England that do not meet basic standards set by government (MHCLG, 2020). 

To help tackle this the Centre for Ageing Better has partnered with UKRI Sciencewise and commissioning Britain Thinks to engage a diverse and inclusive group of the public in a dynamic dialogue on the problems with England’s homes and how best to address them. The events formed part of the Good Home Inquiry, an evidence-based analysis of housing policies formed to determine the causes of the poor quality of England’s homes, and find policy-based solutions.  

At the sessions, policy-makers were able to hear directly from and engage with the public about their experiences in their homes. Attendees discussed the level of autonomy they have over decisions about their homes, their motivations to make repairs or improvements, and the support they might need to do so. Participants also got the chance to respond to the policy ideas emerging through the Inquiry.  

What was the topic?

Previous analysis by Ageing Better estimates that close to half of the 4.1 million homes in England that do not meet basic standards set by the government are lived in by someone over 55 years old (Ageing Better, 2020). In 2020, an estimated 93% of people aged 60 and above said they were satisfied with their home (Ageing Better, 2021). Despite this level of satisfaction, the high number of poor-quality homes persists, and houses that are either damp, cold, inaccessible or in physical disrepair can have serious negative effects on our health (World Health Organisation, 2018). 

Within the dialogue sessions the aim was to explore and address the issue of poor-quality homes, this involved gaining insight into participants’ views of the level of autonomy they have over decision-making with respect to their homes, incentives and motivations to act to improve their homes (for example, to improve energy efficiency to reduce bills/ make the home more comfortable or as part of a wider environmental agenda), and support needed to act and perspectives on who should be responsible (e.g. the roles of different actors at a national and local level, and the role that citizens, themselves, could / should play). Also included was a specific session on what the role of technology, sustainability and health is in improving the quality of our homes.

Why public dialogue now?

At the core of The Centre for Ageing Better’s work is the individual and they champion lived experience within all their evidence, therefore Ageing Better decided to commission Britain Thinks to carry out the dialogue sessions to strengthen the case for immediate policy change and ensure that ideas emerging through the Good Home Inquiry are rigorously exposed and explored through deliberation with members of the public. The final recommendations of the Good Home Inquiry, for new and amended housing policies to make it easier to upgrade, maintain and improve our homes, will be influenced by the conclusions drawn from the dialogues and reflect the desires and needs of the public set to most benefit from policy reform. The final recommendations from the Good Home Inquiry are expected in September. 

If you would like to find out more about the Good Home Inquiry and the other evidence outputs as part of it, please go to the Centre for Ageing Better website.

How was the dialogue structured?

The dialogue ran online over 2 weeks at the end of May and beginning of June. There were 96 participants per session from across the country and the sample was weighted towards those 50 to 70, however there were participants from other age groups. All tenures were present within the sample – owner occupiers, private rents and social renters.

The participants were involved in 3 dialogue sessions where they had the opportunity to hear from experts on a variety of topics related to poor-quality homes. Within the dialogue sessions experts also presented on a predetermined set of policy options developed to address the issue of poor-quality homes, with participants considering motivations/barriers to uptake of the possible interventions and who is responsible for the delivery of said interventions. 

Project manager

Millie Brown – [email protected]

UKRI contact

Philippa Lang – [email protected]

David Orr, Chair of the Good Home Inquiry, said:  

“The COVID-19 crisis has thrown into relief just how important a good home is. But still too many people are living in poor-quality homes, risking serious harm to their health or wellbeing. 

“As part of the Good Home Inquiry, we want to hear from the public about their experiences of their own homes – and get their feedback on the policy proposals we are making to try and solve the significant issues with England’s housing stock.  

“This dialogue will be a unique opportunity to bring together policy-makers and the public to get a better understanding of the issues people have with their homes, and how they can be supported to make changes.”