The “Living Home Standard” – a new way of measuring the housing crisis (Part 2)

David Kingman explains what Shelter’s new “Living Home Standard” says about Britain’s housing conditions in the 21st centuryterraced roof tops

Part 1 of this pair of blogs on Shelter’s Living Home Standard explained what the Standard is and how it works; Part 2 will now go into more detail about what their initial findings have revealed about the state of housing in 21st century Britain.

The housing situation of 4 in 10 people does not meet the Standard

One of Shelter’s main aims in coming up with the Living Home Standard was to be able to put a single number on the scale of inadequate housing in modern-day Britain, because – as explained in Part 1 – Britain’s housing crisis is such a multi-faceted problem that it defies simple attempts at measurement.

This produced the headline finding that over 4 in 10 British people (43%) live in homes that fail to meet the standard. Shelter arrived at this statistic by commissioning Ipsos MORI to undertake a representative survey of 1,961 adults across Britain that involved measuring their housing circumstances against the Standard.

As seems to have been the case when Shelter initially questioned the general public on their definition of adequate housing, affordability emerged as the dominant concern. By a long way, affordability was the most common criteria which the homes of members of the Ipsos panel failed to meet from the Living Homes Standard, with over a quarter (27%) living in homes that were considered “unaffordable”. The survey also found that almost 1 in 5 people were living in homes that failed to meet the criteria for decency because they were in a poor state of repair.

Young households disproportionately affected

The survey was also used to analyse which particular social groups were more likely than others to be living in homes that failed to meet the Standard. For obvious reasons, IF is particularly concerned about what it revealed about the relationship between age and housing standards.

The breakdown of the findings by age showed a dramatic gradient in someone’s likelihood of meeting the Standard: almost half (48%) of respondents to the survey who were aged 16 to 24 were living in homes that failed to meet the Standard, while the corresponding figure for respondents who were over 65 was just 27%. The age group within which people were likeliest to fail to meet the Standard was people aged 25 to 34, among whom over half (56%) didn’t meet it.

These findings are unsurprising, given that when the survey results were broken down by tenure they revealed that people living in the private rented sector were extremely unlikely to meet the standard (69% living in this tenure failed to do so), and the breakdown by region also showed that 73% of people living in London – the part of Britain with the most youthful population profile – didn’t do so.

The value of a number

The fact that it makes it possible to illustrate the extent to which young people, private renters and people are living in London are disproportionately affected by Britain’s housing crisis using just a single number means that the Living Home Standard has the potential to make the housing crisis much more accessible to people who have the power to do something about it.

That is not to say that the Living Home Standard is perfect, by any means; the corollary of accessibility is that it means a great deal of important details have to be sacrificed. One particular limitation of the concept is that it has been designed in a way that makes it much easier to apply to households (people who live in homes) rather than physical houses, which may put it somewhat at odds with the way most people intuitively think about housing.

However, its great virtue is that, much like with the Living Wage, it provides an easy way of measuring not just the scale of the problem, but also the degree of progress which has been achieved towards finding a solution. There can be little doubt that if more people lived in homes that met the Living Home Standard then they would be better-housed, so it provides a clear target for policy-makers to aim at.

The full report explaining the methodology and findings of the Living Homes Standard is available from the following link: