Plans to create ‘healthy homes zones’, as part of an effort to reduce housing-related health inequalities, have been proposed by the Labour Party.
Shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth and shadow housing secretary John Healey yesterday launched a consultation on the opposition party’s plans to link up health and housing.
Under the initial plans put forward, the new ‘healthy homes zones’ will target areas with the worst quality housing, with new landlord licensing powers and penalties made available, along with the appointment of a "tsar" to report on progress and plans for a £50m housing and health inequalities fund.
Ashworth commented: “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.”
The MP said that housing related health problems are costing the NHS an estimated £1.4bn a year and poor housing “can ruin people’s lives”.
He also insisted that a Labour government would make it a priority to combat housing related illness and ensure “nobody’s poor home damages their health”.
Healey pointed out that more people live in private rented housing now than at any time since the 1950s, but claimed that “hundreds of thousands of these homes are unfit to live in”, insisting that the next Labour government “will act decisively to change this”.
The Chartered Institute of Environmental Health (CIEH) has welcomed the proposals to create “healthy homes zones” but called for more details.
Tamara Sandoul, housing policy manager at CIEH, 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.”