• 17.8% of all homes in England are non-decent, which is equivalent to 4.3 million properties.

  • The older the period in which the home was built, the higher the prevalence of non-decent homes. A total of 34% of homes built before 1919 are non-decent.

  • The prevalence of older properties, built before 1919, is higher in areas of London and Wales. 

The chart shows the proportion of homes built before 1919 in each local authority in England and Wales in 2020. Local data on non-decent homes are not available, so this measure is being used as a proxy measure to give an indication of where non-decent homes are most common. A non-decent home is defined as a home that does not meet the Decent Homes Standard, meaning that the home does not meet minimum standards in terms of state of repair, facilities, warmth or safety.

Poor housing conditions can have a direct effect on health. For example, damp in the home can affect respiratory health.

Older properties tend to have a higher proportion of non-decent homes than newer properties and these are more common in London and Wales.

  • A third of properties built before 1919 are non-decent, compared with only 7.5% of properties built after 1980.
  • The 12 local authorities with the highest proportion of properties built before 1919 have over 45% of their properties built before 1919. Seven of these local authorities are in London and four are in Wales.
  • In Kensington and Chelsea, two-thirds (66%) of all properties were built before 1919, which is the highest proportion in England and Wales. This is followed by Hammersmith and Fulham (58%), Haringey (56%) and Pendle (53%). 
  • In 11 local authorities, the proportion of properties built before 1919 is below 5%, five of which are in the East of England region. In both Basildon and Harlow, the proportion of properties built before 1919 is only 1%.

The UK has the oldest housing stock in Europe, and Wales has the oldest housing stock in the UK. This is largely attributable to the legacy of homes built during the industrial revolution, which continues to provide the foundation of urban areas today.

There are limitations to using this proxy measure as it is not exact: there will be some older properties that are decent and some newer properties that are non-decent. It can also reflect the nature of the area, such as inner city areas with little scope for new buildings or that contain expensive period properties only attainable by the wealthy.

The proportion of non-decent homes is highest in older properties. To improve health outcomes, these homes must be renovated so they fulfil the Decent Homes Standard criteria. The prevalence of older properties varies across the country, but efforts to update properties should focus on areas of London and Wales, where the prevalence of older homes is highest. Progress in improving the standards of homes has stalled in recent years, highlighting the need for renewed policy attention. 

  • For a home to be considered decent it must meet the Decent Homes Standard.
  • Specifically, the home must: 
    1.   meet the statutory minimum standard for housing under the Housing Health and Safety Rating System (HHSRS). Homes with a Category 1 hazard under the HHSRS are considered non-decent. An example of a common Category 1 hazard is falls associated with stairs and steps
    2.   be in a reasonable state of repair 
    3.   have reasonably modern facilities and services
    4.   provide a reasonable degree of thermal comfort.
  • Where no value for build period is recorded, the record has been categorised as ‘unknown’ and these properties   equate to 0.9% of the total number of properties. 
  • Neighbourhood is defined here as a middle layer super output area (MSOA). There are 7,201 MSOAs in England and Wales, each containing around 8,000 people.

Source: Valuation Office Agency, Council Tax Stock of Properties, England and Wales: 2020

Further reading

Long read

Better housing is crucial for our health and the COVID-19 recovery

28 December 2020

About 27 mins to read

Long read

Housing problems such as overcrowding, poor quality and unaffordable homes are a threat to health....


Relationship between health and number of housing problems


Having multiple housing problems is associated with poor self-rated health.


Inequalities in who lives in non-decent homes


Single adults and people with lower incomes are more likely to live in a non-decent home.


Number of households experiencing multiple housing problems


Around one million households experience more than one housing problem, most commonly non-decent...

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