When UK housing charity Shelter asked 1,691 members of the public what they regarded as the standard for decent housing.
The criteria were:
- Affordability: how much the residents had left over after paying rent or the monthly mortgage installment.
- Neighbourhood: proximity to work, friends, family and necessary services
- Decent conditions: how warm, safe, or secure the property is
- Stability: the extent to which the occupants felt they could make the house into a real ‘home’.
- Space: includes having enough bedrooms for the entire household, sufficient space for adults to work and children to study, and access to outdoor space.
Four out of 10 households, most of them occupied by young people, failed the test. The biggest problem appeared to be affordability, with 27% of the survey respondents claimed that their home did not meet all affordability specifications. 24% said they were not able to save for emergencies after paying their rent or mortgage, and 23% said that they could not afford to live there if the rent or mortgage fees went up.
An additional 18% said that they had to cut back on food and heating to meet their housing costs while 20% were forced to limit their social activities. One out of every five homes, most of them occupied by renters, failed the standard for decent living conditions. One in 10 respondents lived in homes with limited space, with renters in social housing being particularly bad off. One in four private renters claimed to have little control over how long they could stay in their residence.
Shelter said these results have highlighted the need for stable, five-year rental contracts and protection for tenants against prohibitive rent increases. Campbell Robb, chief executive of Shelter, said it was distressing to realise that so many people had to forgo food pay the rent. He said it was equally unacceptable for them to live in fear that an income drop could cause them to lose their homes.