A small investment in home improvement could create 100,000 new jobs and boost the economy by £10 billion, two think tanks have said.
In a report published on Wednesday, Demos and the Centre for Ageing Better said spending £625 million per year on improving safety, accessibility and heating would deliver a 16-fold return for the government.
The amount is less than a third of the £1.9 billion handed back to the Treasury in July by the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities because it could not find housing projects to spend it on.
Carole Easton, chief executive of the Centre for Ageing Better, said: “Homes which fail to keep people safe and warm are contributing to the deaths of thousands of people every year. Many homeowners cannot afford the relatively small costs needed to substantially improve them.
“The housing stock we have is woefully inadequate to meet people’s needs now, this is only going to get worse as our population ages.”
The think tanks said 3.5 million homes in England posed a serious threat to their occupants’ health because of trip hazards, lack of adequate facilities, and dangerous levels of cold and damp.
In response, they recommended reforms including a loan guarantee scheme for home improvement work, an enforceable housing standard and relief on stamp duty or council tax to help stimulate demand.
Ms Easton added: “Stimulating a mass expansion of home improvement work nationwide would mean hundreds of thousands of people happier and healthier in homes that are safe and energy efficient.
“It would mean reducing the strain on health and social care services. It would mean stimulating economic growth by creating new jobs, skills, apprenticeships and investment opportunities while saving hard-pressed households money.
“It would deliver towards net zero obligations without financially penalising the individual or asking for significant lifestyle sacrifices.
“Few policy options open to government can offer so much for so little.”
Andrew O’Brien, director of policy and impact at Demos, said: “At a time when politicians are scrambling for policies that can unlock economic growth, addressing the poor quality of British homes is a no-brainer.
“Investing in home improvement means more jobs, higher wages and life-changing apprenticeships.
“It’s a political lever that can turbocharge productivity and ensure greater value for the taxpayer.”