Delivering Healthy Housing discussion paper published on how to improve poor quality housing

A new discussion paper by the Academic-Practitioner Partnership titled Delivering Healthy Housing examines what can be done to improve poor quality housing that damages people’s health, wellbeing and life chances and adversely affects the nation’s productivity. 

The housing system is failing. Not enough houses are being built at prices or rents that people can afford and the quality of existing housing is often poor.  Poor housing damages people’s health, wellbeing and life chances and adversely affects the nation’s productivity.  20% of households in England live in dwellings below the Decent Home Standard, and for private sector tenants the figure is even higher at 27%.  The UK has the oldest housing stock and the highest medical costs associated with inadequate housing of any EU member state.

The improvement of housing standards has not been high on the government’s policy agenda and for local authorities, the loss of financial resources and of specialist staff since 2010 makes it impossible for them to follow the house improvement policies that were often so successful in the past.  Recent events, including the disastrous fire at Grenfell Tower, London in June 2017; the work of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Healthy Homes and Buildings; and the inquiry into the role of local authorities in the private rented sector by the House of Commons Select Committee on Housing, Communities and Local Government have led to a more general discussion on healthy housing and the need for significant changes to housing policy throughout the United Kingdom.  The paper Delivering Healthy Housing contributes to that discussion.

Prepared by the Academic-Practitioner Partnership, an informal group of academics, housing and regeneration practitioners and housing and health researchers, the paper looks at the crisis in present-day housing; the need to reconnect policies on housing and health; and the importance of energy efficiency measures to achieve warmer and healthier housing and reduce fuel poverty.  It examines the practical steps that can be taken in each of the main tenures to address the problems of unhealthy housing, especially for people with low incomes.

 Recommendations include: 

  • Common housing and health standards should be developed for all dwellings, irrespective of tenure and dwelling type;
  • More professional resources at local level are needed to inspect and regulate private housing, especially private rented housing, including Houses in Multiple Occupation;
  • Local authorities and housing associations (‘registered providers’) to be more accountable to their tenants and residents, backed by regular independent inspection and analysis;
  • Implementing an ambitious agenda in the private rented sector to eliminate bad housing and criminal landlords, to encourage the provision of well-managed housing with reasonable standards, and to give responsible landlords and tenants a better deal;
  • More financial support for Home Improvement Agencies and Disabled Facilities Grants, to help low income owner occupiers and tenants and reduce costs to the NHS and social care providers;
  • Energy efficiency and fuel poverty measures to be taken further by supporting high energy efficiency standards for house improvement and new construction;
Making healthy housing a priority for housing and health policy, through a pro-active and coordinated approach across the whole housing system at both government and local government levels.