28th Oct 2016

The Living Home Standard, and what it's got to do with us all

Shelter turned 50  this year.  That’s half a century of campaigning for people living with the fall-out of poor and inadequate housing.

What’s that got to do with me and others at Berwins  who work in conveyancing in the Golden Triangle of Yorkshire’s housing market?

Well, we deal every day with people who are moving house and we see the stress and anxiety that the process can cause.     

Emotions can run high – even wanted change can be challenging – the down-sizers can find it hard to leave the home where they brought up their family, those failing in health may find the move to suitable accommodation symbolic of what they have lost.  Those moving on after the end of a relationship can find the sale of the house a tough finality to deal with. Those moving to an expensive property may have anxieties about affordability and the sheer long term nature of sinking every penny they have into bricks and mortar.

For busy people juggling family life and work not knowing where they’ll be living in 2, 4 or 6 weeks’ time can be overwhelming

But it’s not just the obvious – it doesn’t matter how much money you have, there is something fundamentally unsettling to most people involved in a house move.  Uncertainty on timescales makes it difficult for people to plan for the short and medium term.  For busy people juggling family life, work, perhaps caring for others, not knowing where they’ll be living in 2 or 4 or 6 weeks’ time can be overwhelming.  For people who are used to being in control of things, the vagaries of the conveyancing process where numerous other parties have requirements, needs and agendas which may be imperfectly communicated can be unbelievably difficult to deal with.

In October Shelter presented the results of a nine month research project on what a home should provide. From this simple question, thirty nine statements across five different dimensions – affordability, decent conditions, space, stability and neighbourhood have been established and create what Shelter has called The Living Home Standard.  You can find out more about the Living Home Standard and download the full report.

Concerns over instability is a key factor in the difficulty many people have in the process of moving house

One of the five dimensions is stability – does the household have enough control over how long they can live in their home?   I think this is a key factor in the difficulty many people have in the process of moving house – it is the sheer uncertainty and instability of the situation that gives sleepless nights and all the knock-on and unwanted consequences of living in a state of anxiety.  The average transaction time is said to be six to eight weeks.  Once on the housing ladder the average person will move house eight times in their lifetime.     But imagine for a moment living with unstable housing every day – renting for six months at a time and then moving on.  Imagine the sheer difficulty of  putting down the roots so many of us need to, to give us a foundation from which we can live our lives.  

It is a state that would be hard to reproduce as an experiment but we are going to give up just one night in our own beds in our own homes to sleep out  on 11th November 2016 as part of our year-long fundraising and campaigning for Shelter.  A shocking 43% of homes don’t meet the Living Home Standard and we think this is wrong.   We’ll let you know how we get on and of course you have opportunity to support Shelter by making a donation..

Carolynn Peace 

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