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Better housing is crucial for our health and the COVID-19 recovery 07/01/2021 Labelled as Scrutiny, Legislation, Tenants

In November we published research jointly commissioned by ARCH, the Local Government Association (LGA) and the National Federation of ALMOs (NFA) which demonstrated that a post-pandemic building boom of 100,000 new social homes for rent each year would not only meet demand for affordable homes but deliver a £14.5 billion boost to the economy - the equivalent to over half of the entire annual economic performance of Birmingham.


Our report, "Building Post-Pandemic Prosperity" , warned that rough sleeping, homelessness and sofa surfing is only likely to increase in the coming months and estimated that spiralling council housing waiting lists could be set to nearly double to 2 million households next year as a result of the economic impact of COVID-19 with a large-scale social house-building programme by councils offering a cheaper, safe and high-quality accommodation for struggling families priced out of the private housing market. 


The report highlighted that the pandemic has had a disproportionate health and financial impact on already disadvantaged groups, with the most deprived areas of England seeing mortality rates for COVID-19 double that of the least deprived, while ethnic minorities have seen their household incomes reduce by a larger percentage than those of white citizens. 


Now the Health Foundation, an independent charity committed to bringing about better health and health care for people in the UK, has highlighted why housing problems such as overcrowding, poor quality and unaffordable homes are a threat to health and why better housing is crucial for our health and the COVID-19 recovery.


The Health Foundation highlights that while some have weathered lockdown in large homes with gardens and plenty of living space, others have struggled in overcrowded and unsafe conditions. Overcrowding is associated with the spread of COVID-19, making self-isolation more difficult and allowing the virus to spread through more people if one becomes infected.


The analysis by the Health Foundation shows that people's housing environments have affected their ability to shield themselves and others from COVID-19. People have been encouraged to stay in their homes as much as possible, but within-household transmission has played a serious role in the spread of the virus and overcrowding, which has been increasing in the years prior to the pandemic, makes it harder to self-isolate and shield, and may have contributed to higher death rates in poorer areas.


The analysis shows that mental ill-health has been a particular issue for those in overcrowded households during the pandemic, especially in the first lockdown and the chronic lack of affordable housing options, combined with years of reductions in support for housing costs, have led us to this point.


The Health Foundation recommends that major changes to housing policy, such as more secure private tenancies, reversing cuts to housing benefit and building more social housing, are needed to reduce the impact of poor-quality homes on people's health.


A copy of the full report and analysis is available on the Health Foundation website.

ARCH will be contacting the Health Foundation to discuss whether there are opportunities for closer collaboration in the future to help make the case for more social housing.

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