Letter: 'Tower block ghettoes': a coherent housing policy is the only answer

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The Independent Online
Sir: The Prime Minister is right to blame tower block ghettos for the poor quality of life in our inner cities. More will have to be demolished. However, with sufficient investment, many have a viable future. Many residents are happy with high-rise living, so long as they are secure, warm and comfortable. The challenge is to create these conditions where insulation is currently negligible and heating systems dysfunctional.

Preliminary results from our research in Sheffield show that refurbishment with high levels of insulation and efficient heating systems has eradicated fuel poverty - even among the poorest residents - and lifted many above a "basic essentials" poverty line. Reported health appears to have improved also. Residents now call their flats "little palaces".

The challenge for public health research - and that includes the new King's Fund report Tackling Health Inequalities - is to move beyond general prescription to cost-benefit analysis which identifies the size and mix of investment in the housing stock which will eradicate fuel poverty (itself a cause of ill-health and excess winter deaths) and deliver a quantifiable health dividend.

Yours sincerely,


Visiting Research Fellow

Centre for Regional Economic and Social Research


27 April