Slum UK: housing crisis that shames the nation

Conditions now among worst in Europe, warns major study, while thousands forced to sleep rough as landlords cash in

Housing conditions in Britain are among the worst in Western Europe and cost the nation about £7bn a year by adding to the pressure on the NHS and other public services, according to a major study to be published today.

An alliance of housing experts warns that a lack of affordable, decent homes, cuts to local authority housing budgets and the Coalition Government's benefit reforms are creating "real hardship, misery and ill-health" for some of the country's most vulnerable people.

It warns that homelessness is on the rise and predicts the return of unscrupulous landlords like the infamous Peter Rachman, who exploited his London tenants in the 1950s and 1960s. Almost 4,000 people are sleeping rough on London's streets, an increase of 8 per cent since last year. About half of these are from the UK and the rest from a wide variety of other countries, notably Poland. There is little sign that the Mayor of London Boris Johnson's target of ending rough sleeping by next year will be met, the report says.

The Pro-Housing Alliance urges the Coalition to drop its plans to cut housing benefit, warning they will cause severe hardship arising from the mental and physical health problems associated with debt, poverty and enforced relocations and increase health risks from overcrowding.

Today's blueprint recommends the housing crisis should be tackled by the provision of 500,000 green and affordable houses and flats a year for the next seven years, including bringing empty homes back into use.

This proposal will fuel the debate over the Government's controversial plans to streamline planning laws. Environmental groups fear they will result in thousands of homes being built in the Green Belt. Yesterday the National Trust met Greg Clark, the Planning minister, to urge him to think again.

Ben Cowell, the trust's external affairs director, said: "The tension within government policy is between localism and economic growth and they come down clearly on the side of economic growth. So local people will be given the power to say yes, but not the power to say no."

But David Cameron told MPs yesterday: "House building is too low in this country, and it is a shocking statistic that the typical first-time buyer is now in their mid-30s. So we need change – we need more houses to be built."

Dr Stephen Battersby, president of the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health, which brought the housing groups together, said: "The lack of a coherent housing policy for the past 30 years has created an expensive housing market with a shortage of affordable housing.

"Too many people are paying too much for their accommodation relative to incomes. Too many properties pose a risk to health and safety, and the cost to the NHS of treating housing-related illness is way too high. Housing is fundamental to public health and well-being, and the Government needs a completely new way of thinking about housing." He said housing is one of the biggest casualties of the Government's spending cuts, with some of the most vulnerable members of society paying the heaviest price for a financial crisis brought on by bankers.

"I fear that we are also moving to a situation where unscrupulous landlords proliferate as better landlords move up-market. Councils will not be in a position to regulate this effectively. This is not a problem that is going to disappear conveniently," he said.

Today's report says the crisis is most acute in London, where housing costs are about 50 per cent greater and childcare costs much higher than nationally. As a result, plans by Iain Duncan Smith, the Work and Pensions Secretary, to bring in a universal credit in 2013 will be "especially damaging" in London. The spending power of a lone parent with two children working six hours a week will be £8,434 in London compared to £9,482 nationally.

There is expected to be an increase of between 30,000 and 34,000 households in the capital every year for the next 25 years, a high proportion of which will be single-person households.

The number of families on waiting lists in London doubled to 362,000 between 1997 and 2010 – and now accounts for more than 20 per cent of the national waiting list. Yet more than 6,000 council homes are empty in London, nearly a third because they need repairs, with more than 2,300 going without tenants for more than a year.

News
people'It can last and it's terrifying'
Sport
Danny Welbeck's Manchester United future is in doubt
footballStriker in talks over £17m move from Manchester United
Sport
Louis van Gaal, Radamel Falcao, Arturo Vidal, Mats Hummels and Javier Hernandez
footballFalcao, Hernandez, Welbeck and every deal live as it happens
Sport
footballFeaturing Bart Simpson
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
News
Kelly Brook
peopleA spokesperson said the support group was 'extremely disappointed'
News
The five geckos were launched into space to find out about the effects of weightlessness on the creatures’ sex lives
i100
Sport
Andy Murray celebrates a shot while playing Jo-Wilfried Tsonga
TennisWin sets up blockbuster US Open quarter-final against Djokovic
Life and Style
techIf those brochure kitchens look a little too perfect to be true, well, that’s probably because they are
Arts and Entertainment
Alex Kapranos of Franz Ferdinand performs live
music Pro-independence show to take place four days before vote
News
news Video - hailed as 'most original' since Benedict Cumberbatch's
News
i100
Life and Style
The longer David Sedaris had his Fitbit, the further afield his walks took him through the West Sussex countryside
lifeDavid Sedaris: What I learnt from my fitness tracker about the world
Arts and Entertainment
Word master: Self holds up a copy of his novel ‘Umbrella’
boksUnlike 'talented mediocrity' George Orwell, you must approach this writer dictionary in hand
News
i100
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SQL Implementation Consultant (VB,C#, SQL, Java, Eclipse, integ

£40000 - £50000 per annum + benefits+bonus+package: Harrington Starr: SQL Impl...

SQL Technical Implementation Consultant (Java, BA, Oracle, VBA)

£45000 - £55000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: SQL Technical ...

Head of IT (Windows, Server, VMware, SAN, Fidessa, Equities)

£85000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Head of IT (Windows, Server, VMware, SAN, ...

Lead C# Developer (.Net, nHibernate, MVC, SQL) Surrey

£55000 - £60000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: Lead C# Develo...

Day In a Page

Alexander Fury: The designer names to look for at fashion week this season

The big names to look for this fashion week

This week, designers begin to show their spring 2015 collections in New York
Will Self: 'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

Will Self takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Toy guns proving a popular diversion in a country flooded with the real thing
Al Pacino wows Venice

Al Pacino wows Venice

Ham among the brilliance as actor premieres two films at festival
Neil Lawson Baker interview: ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.

Neil Lawson Baker interview

‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.
The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

The model for a gadget launch

Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

Get well soon, Joan Rivers

She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

A fresh take on an old foe

Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering
Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

As the collections start, fashion editor Alexander Fury finds video and the internet are proving more attractive
Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy

Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall...

... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy
Weekend at the Asylum: Europe's biggest steampunk convention heads to Lincoln

Europe's biggest steampunk convention

Jake Wallis Simons discovers how Victorian ray guns and the martial art of biscuit dunking are precisely what the 21st century needs
Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

Lying is dangerous and unnecessary. A new book explains the strategies needed to avoid it. John Rentoul on the art of 'uncommunication'
Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough? Was the beloved thespian the last of the cross-generation stars?

Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough?

The atomisation of culture means that few of those we regard as stars are universally loved any more, says DJ Taylor