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.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
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

Recruitment Genius: Account Manager

£20000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This full service social media ...

Recruitment Genius: Data Analyst - Online Marketing

£24000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We are 'Changemakers in retail'...

Austen Lloyd: Senior Residential Conveyancer

Very Competitive: Austen Lloyd: Senior Conveyancer - South West We are see...

Austen Lloyd: Residential / Commercial Property Solicitor

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: DORSET MARKET TOWN - SENIOR PROPERTY SOLICITOR...

Day In a Page

Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there