Council houses are among the most energy efficient homes in the country, according to a major Government report into house conditions set to be published today. The new report will reveal that social sector housing, currently undergoing a £40 billion overhaul, is much more energy efficient and is being improved at a faster rate than privately-owned housing.
The English House Condition Survey (EHCS) 2005 Annual report finds that social sector housing, for so long associated with draughty post-war tower blocks and cold council flats, is more likely to have effective insulation than privately-owned housing.
Over three quarters (77 per cent) of social sector housing has cavity walls, compared to just over two thirds (67 per cent) of private homes. Just a quarter (27 per cent) of private homes have adequate loft insulation, while almost a half (44 per cent) of social sector houses boast 150mm of insulation or more.
Housing Minister Yvette Cooper said:
“This report shows the multi-billion pound investment in council houses in helping the environment as well as families’ fuel bills. Council houses are now much greener than private homes.
“It shows that major refurbishment’s to deliver decent homes are far more than Changing Rooms-style makeovers. Modern central heating and insulation is being installed alongside new kitchens and bathrooms.
“It was shocking that at the end of the twentieth century, two million council houses failed basic decency standards and many lacked proper insulation or central heating. Now we are well on the way to making all council houses decent, with 95 per cent of social housing to meet the decency standards by 2010.”
Over £20 billion has been invested in improving social housing since 1997. The total investment will rise to at least £40 billion by the end of 2010.
The main measure of energy efficiency used in the report is based on annual space and water heating costs. An index is used to rate homes on a scale of one (highly inefficient) to 100 (highly efficient).
The social sector has an average rating of 57, compared to 46 in the private sector. The social sector has improved more than the private sector since 1996, rising 10 points up the index. The private sector has risen only five points over the same period. Almost all social sector housing (96 per cent) has a rating of more than 30.
The most energy inefficient stock tends to be older, privately owned, larger housing and is often amongst the most valued housing.
Other findings from the 2005 survey are:
Housing conditions continue to improve. Between 1996 and 2005 the number of non-decent homes has fallen by over three million, from 9.1 million (45 per cent) to six million (27 per cent).
Social housing conditions are improving at such a rate that in 2005 there is little difference with the private sector as a whole (29 per cent and 27 per cent non-decent respectively), although conditions in the private rented sector (41 per cent of homes are non-decent) are considerably worse than other tenures.
There has been significant improvements in housing conditions in the 88 most deprived districts since 1996. The number of non-decent social sector homes in these areas has reduced by 680,000 since 1996 and 300,000 since 2001. In the private sector, there are almost 900,000 less non-decent homes in these districts than in 1996.
Across all tenures, housing conditions of the poorer and most vulnerable households (including families and elderly people on benefits) are improving faster than those of more affluent households, and consequently the gap between them is closing. The number of vulnerable households in non-decent homes has dropped by almost a quarter (23 per cent) since 1996, compared to a 14 per cent fall for other households.
In areas where homes are predominantly local authority-built flats one in four households live in poor quality environments. This affects both social and private sector households living on these estates.
On average, houses are getting bigger. However this is because of a tendency to build houses with more bedrooms than in the past. Houses with any given number of bedrooms are actually getting smaller (e.g. three bedroom semi detached).