Independent experts call for improved housing quality

Published:  20 July, 2016

Against a backdrop of the ongoing consultation on the design of the new Energy Company Obligation (ECO) scheme, The Academic-Practitioner Partnership has published a paper to highlight the one-sided approach to housing policy.

‘Good Housing: Better Health’ calls for a more balanced assessment of the country’s housing requirements and a wider recognition of issues related to housing quality, such as health, energy efficiency, poverty and social inclusion.

Christopher Watson, group chair and honorary senior lecturer at the Centre for Urban and Regional Studies and Housing and Communities Research Group, School of Social Policy at the University of Birmingham, said: “There is widespread reference to a housing crisis in the UK with an emphasis on the need to build more homes. However, building new houses will not address problems in the existing stock including: disrepair, cold homes, overcrowding, high maintenance and running costs and it is essential that policy addresses the condition, affordability, suitability, appropriateness and security of this housing.”

The paper presents an action plan to get housing quality back on the policy agenda and improve the understanding of how significantly good housing contributes to better occupant health. For example, it was estimated in 2011 that leaving people in the poorest housing in England costs the NHS £1.4bn in first year treatment costs alone.

Jade Lewis, director of advocacy, Saint-Gobain UK and Ireland, said: “The UK has the oldest housing stock and highest medical costs associated with inadequate housing of any of the European countries. Collaboration between academia and industry is crucial to help address current issues with housing stock, and move the policy agenda away from simply energy efficiency, to one where policy makers take into account all aspects of comfort, health and wellbeing in housing policy.”

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