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Private Sector Housing - Stock Condition Survey

In July 2014 Dudley Council commissioned a survey of private sector housing stock conditions, energy efficiency and a health impact survey.

The survey is needed to support the council's strategic planning, the Housing Strategy and the Local Authority Housing Statistical (LAHS) submission to Communities and Local Government (CLG). It is also needed to satisfy requirements of the Home Energy Conservation Act, the council's Fuel Poverty Strategy and the Equal Opportunities Policy.

Opinion Research Services (ORS) carried out surveys on 1,822 dwellings across the borough between October 2014 and May 2015. A total of 3,600 addresses were selected at random from a list of all non-council dwellings in the borough in order to derive the 1,822 surveys, as not all home owners and tenants were able to take part. For all of 1,822 surveys conducted, information on the following factors was collected: general characteristics of the dwelling; condition of the internal and external fabric; provision of amenities; compliance with housing health and safety standards; age and type of elements; energy efficiency measures; compliance with decent homes standard; socio-economic information about the household where the property is occupied.

Main Findings

Key issues for the council include the following:

  • Approximately 108,000 private sector properties in Dudley

  • A notable increase in the size of the private rented sector (a national trend) from 8.5% in 2001 to around 13% in 2011

  • Strong housing demand, high house prices, but low incomes leading to affordability issues when coupled with lack of incentive to improve housing for private sector landlords

  • A considerable number of Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMOs) 870 compared to the low number currently licensed under the mandatory licensing requirements

  • There are approximately 1,917 long term private sector vacant dwellings in the Borough – that is dwellings vacant for longer than 6 months

  • Fire safety provision in private rented flats and HMOs in Dudley could be considered as below standard, e.g. only 32% of these dwellings have fire extinguishers present and 49% have an escape route that is free of obstructions

  • The private rented sector could be generally better managed; only 70% of landlords are protecting tenants’ deposits in gov’t backed schemes

  • There are an estimated 19,680 (18.2%) of dwellings that fail the decent homes standard

  • Privately rented dwellings show higher rates of non-decency (26%) compared to owner-occupied (17%) and RPs (11%)

  • The highest levels of non-decency are found in converted flats (69%), low rise purpose built flats (31%) and medium to large terraced houses (25%)

  • Privately rented dwellings have the highest failure rate for thermal comfort

  • inadequacies (13%) compared to 8.5% for owner-occupied and 6.3% from RPs

  • The overall proportion of dwellings with Cat 1 hazards in the private sector is 7.6% which represents a total of 8,240 dwellings with falls on stairs and excess cold being the most prominent reasons

  • There are nearly 2,000 Cat 1 hazards in the private rented sector with falls on stairs, Fire and excess cold being the most prominent reasons for failure

  • Around a third (34%) of those with a Cat 1 hazard for excess cold pay more than £1,200 per annum for their fuel with 14% of households in converted flats paying more than £1500 on fuel costs.

  • Based on the ‘Low income, High Cost’ methodology for calculating fuel poverty, 10.2% of occupied dwellings contain a household which is fuel poor

  • The estimated total cost to remedy non-decency is £63.7 million, with an average cost per dwelling of around £3,100 with the cost to remedy Cat 1 hazards is accounting for £15.9m of the total, nearly £2,000 per dwelling

  • Approximately 12,090 households with at least one household member with a long-term limiting illness or disability

  • More than half of residents reported that they’re overweight (39%) or obese (18%)

  • 16.8% of residents report that they are currently being treated for depression, making it the most prevalent mental health condition

Whilst the survey indicates an improvement in housing conditions over the past six years, there are still key concerns regarding the condition of the housing stock. Nearly a fifth of private sector residents are living in non-decent dwellings, with over 28,000 residents vulnerable and unlikely to be able to be in a position to secure improvements to their living accommodation.

8,240 dwellings in the private sector have Category 1 hazards where the council have a duty to take action under the housing legislation. Nearly 2,000 of these dwellings are in the private rented sector are subject to hazards which may cause injury.

Unsurprisingly the overall level of fuel poverty has decreased since the last survey in 2008, 20.8% down to 10.2%, mainly as a result of previous Treasury funded programmes and the introduction of the ‘Low Income High Cost’ definition. With only 35% of dwellings having loft insulation that is either close to or above the recommended depth (i.e. 250mm or above – the recommended depth is 270mm) there remains scope to further improve dwelling energy efficiency and reduce heat loss, energy consumption and C02 emissions.

Although the age profile for Dudley is broadly similar to that seen nationally, the 65+ age group is currently higher than England as a whole and likely to increase which has implications for the private sector housing strategic approach due to the potentially greater need for support which is typically associated with older households. The level of excess cold hazards is also an issue for older residents and the potential link to cold related illnesses as well as trips and falls within the home.

How will the council use this information?

The findings and recommendations from the survey will be used to inform the development of both the Housing Strategy, sub-strategies and policies with a challenging set of actions to increase the proportion of vulnerable occupiers living in decent homes

The council will continue to focus service delivery towards priorities identified from the Stock Condition Survey and set out a business case for adequate resources to deal with these priorities

There is a need to continue to refresh our data on the condition of stock in the private sector, but carrying out stock condition surveys each year is an expensive way of doing this. For 2017/18 onwards, we need to focus on getting a better understanding of the data we already have, and in particular on mapping this data to ensure that our understanding of the different needs of different areas is up to date.