‘If you want a great place to live come to a housing association’ was the first statement of the 20 year vision the sector set out in An Ambition to Deliver in 2014. As a concept this is fairly straightforward – but how would we know if we had achieved it? How could we measure it? And where are we now?
Chloe McLaren Webb is a Policy Officer at the National Housing Federation
10 August 2016
There were some widely held assumptions about homes in the sector that we would expect to hold true:
- that regulatory standards have driven investment and improved quality
- that social housing is generally more energy efficient than private sector housing
- that it is likely to be more accessible to people that are less mobile.
But actually we didn’t have the facts and figures readily available to back these claims up.
To begin to untangle all of these questions we wanted a greater understanding of housing association homes and how they compare to other sectors. We know that our members hold detailed information on the condition of their stock but across the sector this data isn’t always consistent and pulling it together would be a huge job. Instead, working with the Building Research Establishment (BRE), we started to delve into one of the biggest collections of data already available – the English Housing Survey. Based on the data collected by BRE’s surveyors over the last three years we chose six key indicators that we felt represented the quality of a home:
- state of repair
- neighbourhood and environment
- tenant satisfaction
- energy efficiency
- fuel poverty.
What does the research show?
After some intense number crunching we now have a comprehensive and well informed picture of the condition of the housing association stock. And the picture is good. Housing association homes are:
- more energy efficient than any other sector
- in a better state of repair than any other rented tenure, and on a par with owner occupied homes
- significantly more accessible to wheelchair users than any other tenure
- less likely to be located in poor quality neighbourhoods than private rented and local authority homes.
But action is still necessary
But the report also puts concrete figures to some of the most important issues facing housing associations. Despite living in the most energy efficient homes, 10% of tenants are in fuel poverty and new approaches and innovation from within the sector, government and industry are urgently needed to address this issue. Average household incomes are around £20,000 lower than those of homeowners, which really highlights the importance of the work that housing associations do to help tenants into work. And although we already maintain properties at a higher standard than other sectors, new approaches to asset management will be necessary when we consider the impact that the 1% rent cut and Local Housing Allowance cap will have on housing associations’ ability to invest in their existing stock.
How we will use these findings
For the Federation, this research has given us a really useful baseline understanding of these issues and it will feed into some of the key things we’ll be working on over the coming year: as we shine a light on the quality of housing association homes through Owning our Future, as we explore with members how the sector can improve even more, and our ongoing policy work around asset management and energy efficiency to support this.