One Housing Standard For All?

sketch of ladder with list of requirements
Ladder Inspection Checklist photo by Flaaim is licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0
A standard for ladders. Why not for homes?

One school of thought holds that future social housing ought to be built to a lower standard than housing where a higher price will be charged. This kind of thinking is sometimes connected with the idea that people with very low incomes don’t deserve it.

Another school of thought argues that everyone deserves to live in decent housing. One result of this thinking is the UN declaration that housing is a human right.

One of the stumbling blocks is identifying what ought to be included in a housing standard for any kind of housing, including social housing. Is a universal standard even possible, given the wide range of individual preferences and possibilities? Can a standard be developed that resonates with everyone? Can expert knowledge be integrated with daily use and experience?

In 2016, British Gas and Shelter asked Ipsos MORI, a consulting firm, to see whether it was possible to build a standard that resonates with all levels of the British public. The result is called the Living Home Standard.

The project team drew up a preliminary list of standards and then tried them out on the public through consultations and surveys. The result is a set of 39 statements that integrate individual assessment with expert advice. The statements are grouped in five dimensions: affordability, decent conditions, space, stability and neighbourhood.

The statements are designed for homeowners and renters of all ages, incomes and ethnicities. Each one was carefully crafted through the testing process to give a yes or no result. Here’s an example: “Can meet the rent or mortgage payments on the home without regularly having to cut spending on household essentials like food or heating.”

In the first run of the standards, it was determined that over 40% of households in Britain were living in housing that was below the Living Home Standard. The majority of those households fell below the housing standard on two or more of the five dimensions. Over one in four households fell below the affordability dimension. See more of the results here: Topline results

What does this have to do with social housing?

The Living Home Standard demonstrated a process that can work for owners and renters across an entire range of incomes and housing types. The process makes it clear, based on testing, that one standard for housing not only can, but indeed should apply for all housing. That includes social housing.