Labour says it wants ‘Healthy Homes Zones’ in a bid to reduce housing-related health inequalities which are estimated to cost the NHS £1.4 billion a year.
The Healthy Homes Zones would target areas with the poorest quality housing, with new funding and tougher powers to crack down on poor quality rented housing.
Every local authority would have to create a healthy housing strategy for every local area.
Labour claims there is a significant shortfall in the number of councils and health authorities have housing strategies - it singles out three Conservative-run councils, in areas where Cabinet members Jeremy Hunt, James Brokenshire and Boris Johnson are MPs.
In detail, Labour’s proposals are:
- Setting up new ‘healthy homes zones’ to target areas with the worst quality housing, with new landlord licensing powers and penalties;
- Start up funding from a new £50m Housing and Health Inequalities Fund;
- A national ‘healthy homes tsar‘ to co-ordinate central government’s work, and report on progress;
- A clearer healthy homes standard to give residents confidence in the standards they should expect;
- A requirement all local areas to have a dedicated health and housing strategy within the first year of a Labour government, should one be elected.
“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” says John Healey, Labour’s shadow housing secretary.
Labour says more detailed proposals will be released over the summer as part of a formal consultation process.
However, the party says a proposed £50m Housing and Health Inequalities Fund will be found from the NHS funding plans.
Start-up funding for Healthy Homes Zones will be used for extra inspections and enforcement action by environmental health officers to identify and improve substandard housing, as already carried out by good Labour councils like Newham.
The funding will be tied to clear outcomes on reducing housing related illness.