Repair and maintenance of housing falls by £434 million as housing stock increases by 3.8 million

Repair and maintenance work on public housing has been on a downward trajectory over the last two decades. According to latest research from public sector procurement specialist Scape Group, it hit an all-time low in 2018 of £7.1 billion – a £2.2 billion decrease since 1997, despite the number of public sector homes only decreasing by 542,000. In 1997, 32 per cent of all repair and maintenance work in the housing sector was carried out on public sector homes, by 2018 this had dropped to just 25 per cent of total output.

The peak of public sector housing delivery took place during the 1950s, when Britain saw over 200,000 homes delivered each year. These homes often fail to meet today’s energy efficiency standards and require work to ensure they meet modern standards of living.

Mark Robinson, Scape Group chief executive, commented:

“Everyone deserves a home that is fit for purpose, but more than that, a home shouldn’t negatively affect your health or hold back your opportunity to succeed in life. There is a clear connection between the quality of housing and the mental, emotional and physical wellbeing of the people that live there. Our analysis shows a nationwide decrease in the amount of work being carried out on public sector homes. Often the people living in these homes have little recourse to move and face difficulty in securing essential repair and maintenance work.

“The data shows that repair and maintenance work hit a low of £7.1 billion in the public sector last year, a decrease of £252 per property since 1997. This is not enough. A new boiler, either combi, system or heat only, costs between £500 and £2,000, before taking into consideration installation costs. New windows cost from £3,500 to £7,000 on a typical three-bedroom semi and damp proofing internal walls is estimated at £70 per metre or £280 per wall.”

The State of our Estates report from Scape identified that the amount of repair and maintenance work being carried out on all of Britain’s housing stock is falling. Over the same time period, the number of homes in the UK has increased by 3.8 million and a staggering 4.5 million homes now fail the Decent Homes Standard across the public and private sector. Scape’s report identifies that in 1997, construction output was £29.4bn, the equivalent of £1,220 per property. In the last two decades this has decreased in real terms to £28.9bn – an average of £1,028 per property across Britain.

Mark Robinson, Scape Group chief executive, continues:

“The number of households living in the private rented sector is rising, as people continue to be priced out of the housing market. In the ten years from 2007 to 2017, an additional 1.7 million people now live in private rented accommodation. Latest data also shows us that 25 per cent of homes in the private rented sector are classified as non-decent. We need to see better oversight and scrutiny of landlords in the private rented sector so that consumers secure greater protection and importantly, have the ability to hold landlords accountable.”

The regional divide on repair and maintenance work

36 per cent of all repair and maintenance work in England over the last twenty years took place in London and the South East. This equates to £1,440 of repair and maintenance work per property, compared to just £530 in the North East.  The south of England consistently sees higher levels of repair and maintenance output, with a combined £17.4bn of work delivered in 2018.

RegionRepair and maintenance output per home in 2018
London£1,481
South East£1,410
East of England£1,360
South West£1,181
West Midlands£934
East Midlands£790
Yorkshire and the Humber£767
Scotland£755
Wales£687
North West£662
North East£530
Northern Ireland£484

Mark Robinson, Scape Group chief executive, continues:

“The north-south divide in the repair and maintenance of property paints a stark picture of housing stock across the country. Last year, 60 per cent of all repair and maintenance work in Britain took place in just four southern regions. Even taking into consideration regional difference in the prices of materials and construction workers, more needs to be done to redress the balance and improve our homes up and down the country.”

Following the analysis, Scape Group has made a series of recommendations, which aim to improve the quality of our existing housing stock and improve the living conditions of millions of people:

  1. Turning policy initiatives into strategic outputs – most housing organisations now have a 30 year asset management plan, but we need action to turn the extensive policy guidelines in the sector into coherent and implementable strategies. Sitting under an umbrella asset management strategy, we need to see sub strategies for repair and maintenance work, stock re-investment, compliance and legislative responsibilities. Organisations with existing asset management strategies need to demonstrate that they have a cohesive business approach to each sub-strategy making sure that they are well-managed, flexible, detailed, and life cycle costed.
  2. The lifting of the restriction on Right to Buy receipts – Right to Buy has seen better quality stock transferred into the private sector and local authorities have been unable to use the capital receipts to re-invest in improving existing stock or providing replacement housing. Restrictions on the use of Right to Buy receipts need to be lifted and each local authority requires a forward strategy for reinvesting in stock.
  3. Greater scrutiny of housing stock in the private rented sector – the removal of benefits and tax advantages for private landlords, is likely to have a negative effect on the sector as they have less money to put into stock improvements. Private landlords should be made to comply with decency legislation as currently there is no compulsion on the private sector to meet standards either of housing quality or tenancy rights. It is essential that new mechanisms are introduced to monitor the quality of housing in the private rented sector and that financial mechanisms are developed to give local authorities the ability to enforce higher standards.

The full Scape Group report, The State of our Estates, can be downloaded from www.scapegroup.co.uk/research