What is a decent home?

This content applies to England only.

A home is more than just a roof over your head. It’s the place where you can bring up a family, put down roots and thrive. Shelter believes there should be a decent, affordable home for everyone.

But every day we hear about families and households who are denied this, often through no fault of their own. Dreadful conditions that endanger a child’s health; the constant worry of eviction that prevents a couple from starting a family; or ever-rising bills that put a family at risk of homelessness.

We work to make sure these fears are removed and these problems are fixed. We campaign to make sure that everyone can find and keep a home in a decent condition.

A home should be in a decent condition

Shelter believes every home should be safe to live in. That means it must be clean, dry and free of hazards, such as dangerous electrics. Yet almost five million homes in England fail the Government’s Decent Homes Standard.

With a lack of decent housing available, and not enough safe new homes being built, thousands of families have no choice but to live in appalling conditions that put their health in danger.

We want more done to improve the quality of housing, and we want better standards to be enforced nationally.

A home should provide stability

Shelter believes that for a house to be a home, it must be stable. It has to give families and households a chance to settle down, safe in the knowledge that they won’t be evicted or forced to move on before they’re ready to leave.

Many homeless people face a life of constant upheaval and a lack of stability as a result of the homes they end up in. More than 80,000 children were living in temporary accommodation at the end of December 2013. That means families being moved from place to place, living in hostels and B&Bs, constantly waiting to hear if they’ll have a place to move on to.

The surge in private renting has also seen security and stability eroded for millions of renting families. With short-term contracts and a two-month notice period the norm, many private renters live continually with the fear of eviction, afraid they may wake up to find their landlord has forced them to leave their home and local community. Private renting families are almost nine times more likely to move than homeowners, and almost half worry about their landlords ending their contract before they are ready to go.

A home should be affordable

The lack of affordable housing is getting worse, with prices growing further out of reach. In one in four areas private rents went up by more than £300 in 2012. And things are just as bad for those looking to buy; a home in England costs on average nearly seven times the average income.

With bills continuing to soar and incomes stagnating, rising housing costs can be the final straw that pushes a household into arrears, or even homelessness. In some areas, one home in every street is at risk of eviction or repossession.

For many, the problem is not just the amount that must be paid in bills, but the unpredictability that comes with renting. With most contracts in the private rented sector, after six months a landlord can raise the rent to any amount they like without very little warning. Similarly, letting agents can charge fees at any point in the tenancy. Those who are struggling to get by may be forced over the edge by an unexpected bill or a huge rent rise, and could face debt, eviction or even homelessness as a result.

Shelter's view

We want to see housing costs made more affordable. This would be helped by more predictable rent increases for those who privately rent, as well as proper support and advice for those with a mortgage.

And we want to see standards improved in the private rented sector, to provide renters with better homes that don’t put them at risk.

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