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Findings from the Housing Executive House Condition Survey

The Northern Ireland Housing Executive recently published their findings from the 2016 House Condition Survey (HCS). The survey assesses housing conditions across all tenures and types of housing across Northern Ireland. 

Measures against the statutory fitness standard

The HSC has assessed dwelling conditions against the statutory fitness standard since 1974, however, the relative importance of the fitness standard has declined due to the very low proportion of the stock in Northern Ireland failing on this quality measure. Findings using this measure show:

  • A decrease in the rate of unfitness of Northern Ireland’s housing stock from 4.6% in 2011 to 2.1% in 2016.
  • The three most common reasons for a property being classified as unfit in 2016 were: dampness (9,300 dwellings), serious disrepair (9,100 dwellings) and unsatisfactory facilities for the preparation and cooking of food (8,800 dwellings).

Measures against the decent homes standard

8% (61,000 dwellings) of the dwelling stock in Northern Ireland failed the Decent Homes Standard. The proportion of dwellings failing Decent Homes in Northern Ireland in 2016 is less than half the proportion failing in England in 2016 (20%). However, one major reason for the higher failure rate in England is that a higher proportion of homes fail the statutory minimum standard for housing as assessed by the Housing Health and Safety Rating System.

The Housing Health and Safety Rating System

The Housing Health and Safety Rating System (HHSRS) represents a very different approach to housing standards. It is a risk-based system that identifies defects in dwellings and evaluates the potential effect of any defects or deficiencies on the health and safety of occupants, visitors, neighbours or passers-by. The System generates a score which represents the seriousness of any hazard. Any hazards that have a score of over 1,000 are described as ‘Category 1’ and are deemed to fail the statutory minimum standard. In Northern Ireland the fitness standard is under review, however, data collected through the 2016 HCS allows an analysis of the HHSRS in Northern Ireland. Findings using this measure show:

  • Approximately 9% (43,400) of owner-occupied and 8% (11,100) of private rented sector dwellings had Category 1 hazards. The proportion in the social sector was lower (4%; 5,300).
  • Common Category 1 HHSRS hazards were falls on stairs (3%), falls on level surfaces (2%) and excess cold (2%).

The discrepancy in the findings from different measurement systems further highlights the need for an internationally recognised system of best practice to be in implemented in Northern Ireland. In 2016 Housing Rights reviewed the statutory minimum housing fitness standard for all tenures of dwelling and recommended the current fitness standard is replaced in its entirety.

Author

Eimear O'Connor