“When we were in office, what we did was we rebuilt, we renewed 1.4 million homes which were in dire circumstances because of the previous government. So you can argue that we should have built more homes, and I think we should have as well, but we actually made 1.4 million homes in this country habitable.”
Chi Onwurah MP, 3 May 2018
In 2000, the Labour government introduced a “Decent Homes Programme”, with the target of bringing all social housing in England up to a decent standard by 2010.
A decent home is defined as one which meets the minimum legal standard for housing, is in a reasonable state of repair, has “reasonably” modern facilities and services and has effective and efficient heating and insulation.
By the end of 2009, the government estimated that 1.4 million “non-decent” social sector homes in England had received work to make them habitable under the programme. That’s not the same as the fall in the number of non-decent homes though, as some homes may have become non-decent in the same period.
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There are problems with measuring the fall in non-decent homes
The definition of a decent home changed in 2006, so we can’t fairly compare data from before and after that point. In 2002 there were 1.6 million non-decent homes in the social housing sector (or 38% of the overall stock) and in 2010 there were 400,000 (10%).
These figures are also known to undercount the number of homes though. There are more accurate figures (from the English Housing Survey) but they only go as far back as 2008—so we can’t use them to look at Labour’s record.
Using the more accurate figures, the level of non-decent social housing is significantly higher. By this measure there were around 760,000 non-decent social sector homes in 2010 (or about 20% of the overall stock). That’s fallen to 13% in 2016, or around half a million.
The English Housing Survey also provides data on the overall housing stock. It reports that 20% of the total housing stock (4.7 million homes) were non-decent in 2016. 27% of private rented homes were non-decent, as were 20% of owner-occupied homes.