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What are Labour's Healthy Homes proposals?

Tuesday 10 July 2018

On the 70th anniversary of the National Health Service, the Labour Party announced plans to marry health with housing, in the form of ‘Healthy Home Zones’.

They argue that hundreds of thousands of rented homes are unfit to live in, and warned of a return to pre-war slum housing if standards are not improved. 

The Labour Party plans to join up health and housing policies to combat housing-related health inequalities, which they say cost the NHS an estimated £1.4 billion a year.

Shadow Health Secretary Jonathan Ashworth MP, and Shadow Housing Secretary John Healey MP jointly launched a consultation on 2 July, ‘in the spirit of Nye Bevan’s original vision’. The announcement follows Labour’s new research that reveals current arrangements for reducing housing-related health inequalities are failing.

Labour’s analysis reports that 31% of Health and Wellbeing Boards have no specific section on housing or homelessness in their Health and Wellbeing Strategies, five areas don’t mention housing at all, and of 152 areas – 77 don’t mention homelessness. The Labour Party is singling out Conservative-run council areas as amongst those performing the worst, naming Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt, Housing Secretary James Brokenshire, and now-former Home Secretary Boris Johnson as top-Tories with unsatisfactory local councils (Surrey, Bexley and Hillingdon).

What is Labour proposing?

  • ‘Healthy Home Zones’ to target areas where housing quality is low, with new landlord licensing powers and penalties.
  • A new £50 million Housing and Health Inequalities Fund
  • A national ‘healthy homes tsar’ to enforce central government’s work and report on progress.
  • A clearer healthy homes standard.
  • A requirement for all local areas to have a dedicated health and housing strategy within the first year of a Labour Government.

The proposals will be revealed in full when the consultation ends, but Labour has stated that the Helathy Home Zones will pay, ‘particular attention to homes let by private landlords’, which Labour say tend to be older and, ‘of a worse standard’. According to Labour, approximately 800,000 houses which were built pre-war have ‘category 1’ hazards – which pose a ‘serious risk of health’ to those who reside in them.

Shadow Housing Secretary, John Healey MP expressed that, ‘housing and health were joined after the Second World War because widespread slum private housing meant unsanitary conditions and poor health for millions’. Healey warned that the country could be returning to the conditions of ‘squalor’ identified by William Beveridge in 1942, before the arrival of the NHS in 1948.

Tamara Sandoul, Housing Policy Manager at Charted Institute of Environmental Health, said:

“We welcome Labour’s proposal to bring housing and health closer together. The quality of housing is a key determinant of health, especially for the young and the elderly – who are not only more susceptible to poor conditions affecting their health - but also tend to spend most of their time in the home.

Healthy home zones are a promising proposal, but there is a real need for far more detail on what they would do in practice.

It is certainly clear that there is much to learn from existing initiatives like selective licensing schemes and national landlord registration schemes to see how well these operate in practice and how future licensing schemes could be fine-tuned to target poor conditions and improve quality of housing.”