The Labour Party has announced plans for ‘Healthy Homes Zones‘ in order to mark the 70th anniversary of the NHS. Its aim is to bring together health and housing, paying specific attention to housing-related health inequalities. This is “in the spirit of Nye Bevan’s original vision”.
Bevan was a Welsh Labour politician who was the Minister for Health from 1945-51. He was responsible for both health and housing policy in the post-war Labour Government.
The Healthy Homes Zones look to focus on areas with the poorest quality housing, and use new funding in an attempt to improve such conditions for renters. There would also be a requirement for a healthy housing strategy for every local area.
This plan has been revealed by Labour, following new research revealing that current arrangements in place for reducing housing related health inequalities are failing.
An exclusive analysis from the Labour Party reveals this current lack of focus in improving the situation of housing and homelessness by Health and Wellbeing Boards. 31% of these boards do not have a specific section on housing or homelessness in their current Health and Wellbeing Strategy. There are also five areas that do not mention housing at all within their strategies. 77 out of 152 do not mention homelessness.
A consultation will soon be released by the Labour Party, including the proposal for setting up ‘Healthy Homes Zones’. There will also be a proposal to make funding available from a new £50m Housing and Health Inequalities Fund. The party also wish to elect a national “tsar” in order to report on progress. By introducing a clearer healthy homes standard, they expect a rise in confidence from residents in the standards they should expect. A dedicated health and housing strategy is also to be proposed as a requirement for all local areas, which would be implemented within the first year of a Labour Government.
Jonathan Ashworth MP, Labour’s Shadow Health Secretary, said: “As part of our determination to narrow health inequalities and tackle the wider social determinants of poor health, we must again more closely align health and housing policy.
“Housing related health problems are costing the NHS an estimated £1.4 billion a year and poor housing can ruin people’s lives, so, for Labour in Government, in the spirit of Bevan’s original vision, it will be a priority to combat housing related illness and ensure nobody’s poor home damages their health.”
John Healey, Labour’s Shadow Housing Secretary, said: “Housing and health were joined after the second world war because widespread slum private housing meant unsanitary conditions and poor health for millions. This was Beveridge’s evil of ‘squalor’.
“We’re at risk of recreating this problem today. More people live in private rented housing now than at any time since the 1950s and hundreds of thousands of these homes are unfit to live in. The next Labour Government will act decisively to change this.”