This year marks 100th anniversary of The Housing Act 1919, also known as the Addison Act following which Lord Christopher Addison, the then-minister for health and housing, enabled a boost of funding for councils to build 500,000 homes over three years.
This act was credited with establishing the principle of large-scale, state-funded provision of council housing at low rents. These estates were built to provide a better quality of life for tenants with comfort as a priority, showcasing larger homes, wider streets and close to accessible green space.
After the second world war, once again more homes were needed immediately. In the lead up to the general election, Winston Churchill realised that housing had the potential to help the party gain power. The conservatives outbid the Labour government with the promise of 300,000 new council houses a year. These ambitious targets saw the rise of the high rise. Tower blocks were a way to build quickly on a small plot of land.
As recent as this year, it has again been suggested by Shelter that Britain is experiencing a shortage in social housing. A report from the charity states that “Three million new social homes must be built in England over 20 years to solve the "housing crisis”. The government has said that providing fair social housing was a priority and plans to build 250,000 homes by 2022, including homes for social rent.
Referencing the horrifying events of the Grenfell Tower disaster, Shelter believes that we are at a turning point for how the country talks about and considers appropriate social housing. Just like the Addison Act 100 years ago, social housing must provide comfort, safety and a better quality of life for the people who live there.
One way that social housing can enhance living for tenants is through the provision of energy efficient homes that curb water bills and support wider environmental goals for the UK. In Norwich, 100 affordable homes have been built with this precise ambition in mind. Goldsmith Street has been called social housing of the future and are some of the most energy-efficient housing ever built in the UK. Built to meet the German Passivhaus approach to home design, using a combination of high-performance glazing, insulation and an airtight building envelope to regulate a home’s internal temperature without relying on artificial heating or cooling, these homes offer a 70% reduction in fuel bills for tenants.
Although projects like this development give us an idea of how social is evolving, it is not realistic to believe that estates like this will become common place for many years. Right now, contractors are best placed to advise social housing providers on products that promote safety and energy efficiency while also meeting the needs of a diverse range of social housing tenants. High use domestic area’s such as the bathroom are ideal for implementing water saving products.
With around 17 per cent of a gas heated household’s heating bill attributed to showers, baths and water from the hot tap, reducing the level of hot water used, savings can be passed onto the tenants while also helping social housing providers comply with Part G of the Building Regulations. According to the Energy Saving Trust, if a family of four used a water-efficient showerhead instead of an inefficient one, each year they could save around £72 off their gas bills and around £72 off their water bills (if they have a water meter); a total saving of almost £150.
For social housing, we would recommend the installation of an electric shower in the bathroom. Rather being fed from a hot water storage tank or boiler; an electric shower instantaneously heats up the cold mains water as it passes through the shower unit. This means they only heat the amount of water that is needed, so there is no wasted energy. This energy efficiency makes the electric shower ideal for green focussed social housing, and in conjunction with tenants watching their water bills, can ensure that only the most necessary amount of water is used.
Some believe that electric showers aren’t as aesthetically pleasing as the alternative and if we are working towards improving the perception of social housing it is important that the specified products meet the needs of modern homeowners. The truth is many electric showers on the market are now far more design led than ever before. Bristan’s range of electric showers are sleek and modern in design with a smart digital temperature display, for the ideal combination of style and practicality.
To truly future proof a property, social housing providers must think about not just which products will meet the needs of the tenants right now, but also what they will need from each product in say ten years’ time. That’s why manufacturers are increasingly developing products that incorporate easy to use features and functionality. There are now showers available, for example, which are endorsed by BEAB Care and RNIB (Royal National Institute for the Blind), ensuring the safest possible experience for residents of all abilities.
These models combine modern styling and ease of use features such as large, easy-to-move dials, raised markings and audible clicks when settings are adjusted, illuminated stop/start buttons, LED digital setting displays and contrasting back boxes – all designed to increase suitability for users of a wide range of abilities.
The face of social housing is changing, yet the promise made by government 100 years ago to provide homes that offer tenants a better quality of life remains true. Until all social housing estates resemble the award-winning Goldsmith Road, social housing providers can choose products that support the sector’s evolution now and into the future.
For more information about our domestic taps and showers, suitable for social housing projects please contact your local specification managER
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