Join up health and housing policy or risk return to 'pre-war slum housing', Labour warns

Housing-related health inequalities estimated to cost the NHS £1.4 billion a year

Sam Lister
Monday 02 July 2018 09:26 BST
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Labour has warned there is a risk of the resurgence of post-war style slums that fuelled illness as it announced plans to join up health and housing policies.

Hundreds of thousands of rented homes are unfit to live in, according to the party.

It set out plans to create healthy homes zones that would target areas with the worst quality housing.

Shadow housing secretary John Healey warned the country faced a return to the problems of the "evil" of squalor that William Beveridge warned of when he paved the way for the welfare state.

He 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."

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Housing-related health inequalities are estimated to cost the NHS £1.4 billion a year, Labour said.

Under the healthy homes zone proposals, which will go out to consultation, the party would introduce new landlord licensing powers and penalties, and appoint a "tsar" to report on progress.

The party also set out plans for a £50 million housing and health inequalities fund and said all areas in England would be made to draw up a strategy on the policy area.

Shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth said NHS founder Nye Bevan knew there was a link between health outcomes and quality of housing.

He 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.

"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."

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