To Fix The Housing Crisis Once And For All, We Need To Reclaim The Meaning Of Home

17/10/2016 09:25
Mark Blinch / Reuters

Housing is mentioned dozens of times a week in parliament and the news, but "home" only rarely. It's great that housing is getting attention from our politicians - but among all the talk of regulations, markets, and units we mustn't lose sight that a home is so much more than bricks and mortar. No matter who you are, home is the basis for building a foundation for your life, enjoying time with family and friends, being part of a community, and planning for the future.

It's the fundamental place of home in people's lives that brings such urgency to the task of making sure everyone in Britain has a safe, secure and affordable place to live. That's why Shelter - with Ipsos MORI and British Gas - embarked on a ground-breaking new study asking the public to define what home really means to them.

We spoke to thousands of people up and down the country to find out what makes a home a home. The result is the Living Home Standard - a measure of what people need in order to thrive, not just survive. People defined a home according to what it enables them to do. Can I afford the rent without cutting back on food? Is it worth making friends at the school gate or might we have to move in six months? Can our kids can sleep safely and comfortably at night?

In twenty-first century Britain, surely none of this is too much to ask. But as we reveal today, four in ten homes in Britain fail to meet the Living Home Standard - a tragic reflection of just how bad our housing crisis has become.

There's no mystery about why we're in this situation or what needs to be done. What the Living Home Standard gives us, for the first time, is a very clear picture of what the British people expect and how far short we're falling. This should be a catalyst for action. We can do better.

The signals from the new government so far have been encouraging. Affordability is the main reason that homes fail to meet the standard and at the heart of it all is the need to build many more genuinely affordable homes. So the recent announcement of new package of measures to achieve this was very welcome. We hope for more detail before the end of the year.

There's been good progress in cracking down on problems like severe damp and dangerous electrics. And we've seen more and more recognition of how important stability is for families renting in the private rented sector long-term. Quite right - one in four homes fail to meet the Standard because renters in particular don't feel they have enough control over how long they can live in their home.

But all of this is just a start - there is much more to do. And it's not just for government but for charities, businesses and others to join forces behind this national mission. Shelter's 50 years of fighting bad housing and homelessness tells us that change is possible and we're hopeful that eventually everyone in Britain can have a home that meets the Living Home Standard.