A shocking 45% of people in the West Midlands live in homes which fail to meet the ‘Living Home Standard’ – a new measure of what makes an acceptable home, developed as part of ground-breaking new research. Designed to be the housing equivalent of the Living Wage, the new Living Home Standard has been developed by the public, for the public through a series of discussion groups, workshops and surveys. For the first time it reveals a measure of what the public think they should have from a home in order to live, rather than just get by.

In a landmark report, Shelter and Ipsos MORI, with support from British Gas, asked the nation to define what makes an acceptable home. Fifty years since the housing charity was first founded, the Living Home Standard paints a unique picture of what people need from their homes in Britain today. It is measured through five criteria based on what mattered most to the public: affordability, decent conditions, stability, space and neighbourhood. Failing one or more of these criteria means the home fails to meet the standard.

The research reveals that most homes fall below the standard due to the impact of high housing costs, with one in three people (33%) in the West Midlands living in homes which fail on affordability.

Around one in five (18%) live in homes which fail to meet the standard because of poor conditions, with problems including persistent pests, damp or safety hazards. And the homes of one in sixteen people (6%) fail due to instability, largely driven by renters who feel they don’t have enough control over how long they can live in their home.

Shelter Birmingham’s service manager Vicky Hines said: “At Shelter Birmingham we know all too well that a home is much more than bricks and mortar – it’s a place that should allow us to live and thrive, rather than just get by.

“When Shelter was founded fifty years ago, it was with the hope that one day everyone would have access to a place they can truly call home. But the sad truth is that every day we speak to people in the West Midlands living in homes that just aren’t up to scratch – from renting families forced to cope with poor conditions, to all those struggling to keep up with their sky high housing costs.

“Now is the time to get to grips with our housing crisis once and for all. We’re calling on the new government, alongside businesses and other charities, to work with us to increase the number of homes that meet the Living Home Standard. And in the meantime our expert advisers are here to help anyone struggling with bad housing in Birmingham.”

British Gas has been working in partnership with Shelter for five years to help improve conditions in the private rented sector. 

Sarwjit Sambhi, Managing Director of UK Home at British Gas, said: “Our partnership has changed the lives of thousands of families but this report shows that there is clearly more to do. Through our customers, we understand what makes a house a home, and how important a warm and safe environment is for everyone.  As we move towards a future where technology will play a greater role in our daily lives, the fact that many people do not even have basic levels of safety, comfort and security is unacceptable.”