Housing Standards

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1. Background

Housing should provide people with a comfortable home to live in, that meets their basic physiological needs. Living in substandard conditions has a negative effect on mental and physical health, can cause injuries or lead to avoidable deaths. It is important that homes are accessible, in the right location, in good condition, and that they are warm and affordable. Low quality, cold, or overly hot housing, can cause or exacerbate acute and chronic health issues, which can result in increased GP visits, hospital admissions, or a reliance on medication. 

Poor housing standards impact many health inequalities: 

  • Falls: Roughly two thirds of falls in Lincolnshire occur at home.  
  • Respiratory conditions: Living in a cold, damp, and mouldy home is likely to promote conditions of asthma, and it can worsen many other respiratory conditions such as Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD). 
  • Health Outcomes for Children and Young People (CYP): Housing in a poor repair has been found to negatively impact socio-emotional development, promote psychological distress, increase behavioural problems, and result in lower educational attainment. Evidence indicates increased susceptibility to long term mental health issues amongst pre-schoolers living in substandard housing. 
  • Mental health: Evidence shows housing conditions positively correlate with psychological wellbeing and self-esteem. Poor housing can contribute to anxiety, poor mental wellbeing, a feeling of being unsafe, and feelings of dissatisfaction. 
  • Excess winter deaths and illness. 
  • Fuel poverty: Low income households and the low energy efficiency ratings (EPC) of Lincolnshire housing leads to higher rates of fuel poverty than for England, and a greater fuel poverty gap. This is particularly seen in areas of deprivation where EPC ratings tend to be lower, and where rural properties are not connected to mains gas. The percentage of private sector dwellings with an EPC below Band E is highest in East Lindsey. Energy prices have been increasing at a significant rate since the end of the price cap in 2022, leading to more people being unable to afford to heat their home, but this is not yet reported in fuel poverty statistics. 

    The largest proportion of Lincolnshire’s housing stock is owner-occupied; that is, people own their home under the terms of a mortgage or own the property outright. Most have equity in their property. Low-income homeowners may not be financially capable of affording repairs, improvements, or redecoration. The private rented sector has grown to outnumber social housing, and demand is increasing. This may contribute to tenants accepting poor standard housing as they may be reluctant to complain for fear of retaliatory eviction. There is insufficient capacity in today’s social housing stock to meet increasing demands. However, with landlords required to meet the Decent Homes Standard, the social housing stock is in good condition, generally. Based on “first year treatment costs” only, poor housing in England costs the NHS £1.4 billion a year (Source: BRE). 

    Feeling uncomfortable and unsafe in your home can cause feelings of unhappiness and loneliness. The Agile Ageing Alliance urges the housing sector to combat loneliness by delivering innovative and inclusive places. To help embed this focus, ‘loneliness’ has been added to the portfolio of the Department of Levelling Up, Homes and Communities (DLUHC) (Source: HousingLIN). 

    The Government addresses low quality housing through public health and housing acts and policies. This approach requires collaboration between housing, health, and care systems. The legislation secures improvements using powers of enforcement and by supplying assistance for low-income households. Improvement in housing standards results in gains for individual health outcomes. 

    2. Policy Context
    3. Local Picture

    TheBRE dwelling level housing stock modelling and database for Lincolnshireprovides information about the condition of existing private sector housing. It shows Lincolnshire has a higher percentage than England of dwellings that fail to meet key indicators, particularly relating to excess cold. Monitoring trends in housing conditions is difficult because datasets are updated, usually, every five years. During that time, methodologies and standards have usually change. However, comparison of this modelling with the Lincolnshire Private Sector House Condition Survey (2009) suggests that a consistent one fifth of private sector homes contain serious hazards. The Standard Assessment Procedure (SAP) energy rating is comparable with national figures. Census data show the number of homes without central heating halved between the 2001 and 2011. 

    Park-homes, caravans and houseboats are common types of home across Lincolnshire, especially on the east coast. Accurate statistics for these dwelling types are not available. However, estimates suggest two fifths of those whose home is a caravan, are, in effect, full time residents of East Lindsey. Not all these homes are intended for year-round occupation – relatively few are part of a standard improvement programme to replace units over time. Better regulation of this class of accommodation is confounded as the majority fall outside the remit of the Housing Act 2004. 

    The private rental market in Lincolnshire is relatively stable but there are distinct variations in condition and affordability across the county. Generally, the households that find it hardest to access housing are those on low incomes and those with health problems and/or disabilities resulting in those households living in properties of poor condition. Almost a fifth of private sector stock in the county is occupied by low-income families – with the highest proportion in Lincoln, and the lowest in North Kesteven.  

    4. Local Response

    District councils (DCs) are Lincolnshire’s housing and energy conservation authorities. DCs have statutory duties, strategic responsibilities and discretionary roles, that relate to housing advice, housing conditions and regulatory enforcement. However, collaboratively working with partner organisations is essential to be able to target homes in the worst condition, and to support the most vulnerable residents. 

    Local authorities in England have legal powers to act against owners and owner-occupiers for properties in very poor condition. DCs in Lincolnshire work closely with owners and landlords to ensure properties are fit for occupation. Proactive work includes facilitating landlord forums, producing advisory newsletters to inform landlords of legislative changes, and promotion of available funding opportunities. Large houses in multiple occupation (HMO) are required to have a local housing authority licence. Some DCs operate a landlord accreditation scheme, in an attempt to encourage more responsible management of property. ‘Selective Licensing’ enables DCs to define specific geographical areas in which landlords for all private rented properties are required to apply for, and be granted, a licence to rent the property out. . If landlords do not mitigate poor housing conditions, DCs can pursue a financial prosecution, or work can be done in default and the costs reclaimed. 

    LCC and the Centre for Ageing Better have formed a rural strategic partnership. The partnership supports the homes and housing agenda, through the HHCDG, to give people greater choice about how and where they live as they age. HHCDG is implementing some recommendations of the Ageing Better, Good Home Inquiry. The work was commissioned to develop a model for a Good Home Agency or Alliance to support people to repair, improve or move home. 

    A number of partnerships are working on the housing standards agenda in Lincolnshire; 

    • Lincolnshire Housing Standards Group 
    • Lincolnshire Healthy and Accessible Homes Group 
    • Greater Lincolnshire Energy Efficiency Network 

    Partners have created a shared housing intelligence role within the Public Health Intelligence Team to improve targeted interventions by understanding of the relationship between poor housing standards and health. 

    5. Community & Stakeholder Views

    The Good Home Alliance project team has collated responses to public and staff surveys, workshops, and interviews to develop a housing service model. A report on this can be found alongside this factsheet. 

    The Mental Health, Learning Disability and Autism (MHLDA) Partnership Board inform us that people with LD do not always know their housing rights, what landlords should or should not be doing, or how to complain. It is possible that people living with a learning disability are enduring poor housing conditions. An inspection regime is in hand for properties housing LD service users. 

    6. Gaps and Unmet Needs

    Withdrawal of private sector renewal funding in 2013 has resulted in less support for privately renting tenants or owner occupiers for improvement to their own home. DCs ability to fund works is limited. Several national schemes provide financial help for energy efficiency measures to low-income households struggling to heat their home. However, these schemes are independent of each other and are difficult to navigate. Schemes that do exist are not fast tracked to prevent imminent hospital admissions, neither do schemes facilitate hospital discharge. Targeted Government funded energy efficiency schemes, e.g. for central heating, tend to have a low take up, in part because residents (particularly those most in need) suspect scams and have been told to avoid cold calls. 

    The BRE housing stock modelling was based on 2017 models using data from the English Housing Survey up to 2014. Options to update this are being explored with BRE. Potentially, the Public Health Intelligence Team may develop a “live data” process to continually update local intelligence. 

    It is not possible to routinely quantify the risks associated with living in poor condition housing, particularly at a local level e.g., increases in hospital admissions or risks of respiratory illness. Closer working with NHS colleagues and increased analytical capacity seeks to understand needs, target specific cohorts and localities and test the effectiveness of both individual-agency, and partnership responses.   

    Park homes, static caravans and mobile homes are often not considered as housing, despite the number of people residing in these types of accommodation in Lincolnshire. Notwithstanding park homes, caravan dwellers on the East Lindsey coastal strip present a particular challenge in respect of illness or resilience during extreme weather events, with a knock-on impact to partner services, e.g., the NHS and potentially excess seasonal deaths. 

    Housing support for people with mental health, learning disabilities and autism should be specifically identified in local housing strategies. 

    Gypsies, travellers, and other transient populations may have specific needs not currently quantified. 

    7. Next Steps

    The HHCDG will continue to implement the Lincolnshire Homes for Independence blueprint to: 

    • Improve the evidence base and develop a case for investment in housing as a preventative measure. 
    • Help people to repair, maintain and improve their home. 

      Overlaying modelled data of the condition and energy efficiency of the housing stock with health profiles and deprivation data will give insights to health impacts of poor condition housing, allowing effective targeting of schemes and advice. 

      To address poor housing conditions in the private rented sector, and tackle rogue landlords and criminal landlords, we must; use powers of enforcement more effectively; deliver on measures in the Housing and Planning Act 2016; and increasing capacity to enable a proactive approach to health and housing. 

      All agencies should better consider the health needs of those residing in park homes or static caravans, including transient populations, gypsies, and travellers, and other groups with protected characteristics. 

      To explore opportunities to include housing advice as part of a comprehensive advice and support offered by in-house practitioners, commissioned services and voluntary and community sector organisations.  

      Lincolnshire JSNA People