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A Living Home Standard

Today Shelter, together with Ipsos MORI and supported by British Gas, has released its new Living Home Standard research. Led by our colleagues in England to mark their 50th anniversary, this innovative project aims to identify a new standard for what makes an acceptable home to people, based on what people across Britain have identified that they actually want from their home.

This work has been informed by Shelter and Shelter Scotland’s recent Great Home Debate survey that ran across the country with support from British Gas and has been further underpinned by detailed research undertaken by Ipsos MORI.

The Living Home Standard paints a unique picture of what people tell us that they need and want from their homes in Britain today. It is, to our knowledge, the first definition of what home means that has been defined by the public, for the public. As such, it is a powerful bit of work that highlights that however housing quality standards may be counted and measured across the country, from their own perspective, many people across Britain remain dissatisfied with the standard of their home.

The Living Home Standard is measured through five criteria based on what mattered most to the public as identified in the Great Home Debate and research work. These five criterion are: affordability, decent conditions, stability, space and neighbourhood. Within each dimension some attributes were defined by the public as being essential, others, important, but tradeable. A home must meet all of the essential attributes and a third to one half of the tradable attributes in each dimension to meet the new Living Home Standard.

At a Britain wide level, the research reveals that most homes that fall below the new Living Home Standard do so due to the impact of high housing costs, with over one in four people (27%) in Britain living in homes which fail on affordability. Additionally, the Top 5 reasons homes fail the Living Home Standard across Britain were identified as being:

  1. Worries that the rent/mortgage may rise and become difficult to pay (affordability)
  2. Can’t meet rent/mortgage without regularly cutting back on essentials like food/heating (affordability)
  3. Home is not free from mould or damp problems (conditions)
  4. Not enough control over how long can stay in the home (stability)
  5. Home is not free from pest problems (conditions)

Looking at Scotland specifically, while the survey sample used is legitimate in terms of a Britain wide representative sample, to look at the Scottish sample in isolation, particularly given the distinct and devolved housing policy landscape in Scotland, delivers a limited ability to draw any strong conclusions or recommendations.

It is important to note that some of the main policy recommendations that this new standard helps to inform at a Britain-wide level are already issues that Shelter Scotland has worked constructively and successfully with government, partners and stakeholders to make, inform or secure real progress on here in Scotland in recent years, including: PRS tenancy reform; a commitment to deliver more affordable and socially rented homes; a commitment to the introduction of a new Warm Homes Bill in the coming months and the ongoing development of a new cross tenure Common Quality Standard for all homes in Scotland.

However, what this new research does provide for the first time is an initial sense on what people themselves want out of a home in 21st century Britain. This is of particular value and importance given the recent work from the Commission on Housing and Wellbeing in Scotland that identified the central importance of a home to the collective wellbeing of the nation and to people living prosperous and fulfilling lives.

Understanding more about what matters to people and informs their sense of satisfaction about the place that they call home is an essential element of ensuring that there is a safe, secure and affordable home for everyone in Scotland.