Home Housing 6.5 million still stuck in dangerous homes by end of next parliament, new manifesto analysis reveals

6.5 million still stuck in dangerous homes by end of next parliament, new manifesto analysis reveals

by Kirsty Kirsty

More than 6.5 million people could still be living in dangerous homes by the end of the next parliament despite manifesto pledges to tackle the poor quality of the country’s housing, the Safe Homes Now campaign is warning.

Both the Conservatives and Labour have committed to spending a minimum of £6 billion in the next parliament on upgrading England’s least energy efficient homes.  

But Centre for Ageing Better analysis finds this funding would not go far enough to repair all homes with poor energy efficiency to a high standard while the manifestoes offer little by way of solutions to millions of people who live in homes that are considered dangerous to their health for reasons other than being too cold or too warm.  

Currently, 8 million people live in 3.7 million dangerous homes in England. This includes homes that are in disrepair, unsanitary, have outdated sewage facilities, have electrical or fire hazards and which do not meet basic legal health and safety standards. 

Based on Centre for Ageing Better analysis, this figure might only be reduced to 6.6 million living in 2.9 million dangerous homes before 2030 even if Labour or the Conservatives are able to fully deliver on the home energy efficiency plans in their election manifestoes.  

By failing to comprehensively deal with the issue of dangerous homes, political parties risk missing out on substantial benefits that would boost the economy and alleviate pressure on health and social care services.  

Fixing all the dangerous homes lived in by older people would directly save the NHS and the social care sector more than £1.5 billion a year, according to recent research from the Centre for Ageing Better, BRE and LSE.  

A more comprehensive investment in home improvement policies would bring £5.9bn in health benefits and help 3.1 million people every year, according to research by the cross-party think tank Demos with the Centre for Ageing Better and supported by Dunhill Medical Trust.  

The Safe Homes Now campaign, which brings together some of the UK’s leading charities and organisations committed to tackling England’s unsafe homes, is calling for the next government to create a national strategy to tackle the poor quality of the country’s homes.  

The campaign argues a national strategy is desperately needed to join-up efforts across government departments, including health, housing and net zero, to improve unsafe homes.  This strategy needs to go further than improving the energy efficiency and must also work towards eliminating falls in the home and other hazards to residents’ health.

Dr Carole Easton OBE, Chief Executive at the Centre for Ageing Better, said: “In this country we have some of poorest quality homes in terms of energy efficiency in all of Western Europe.  

“Such is the poor state of the nation’s housing, the level of investment promised in Labour and Conservative election manifestoes is unlikely to repair all cold homes within the next five years to a sufficiently high standard. This risks leaving many people continuing to endure the likelihood of their home harming their health.

“And no national political party has committed to invest in improving the safety of homes beyond making them more energy efficient, despite the huge threat that poor-quality housing poses to the nation’s health.  

“Tackling poor quality existing homes should be a high priority for the next government, and is as important as the new ones that will be built in the next parliament. This is not just a housing issue, it is a critical electoral issue in terms of improving the nation’s health, boosting the economy and tackling climate change.”  

The Safe Homes Now campaign, launched in April by nine organisations including Independent Age and Asthma + Lung UK, is calling for the government to do more to address the impact of poor housing on the nation’s health.

The campaign is also highlighting the lack of support for home improvement currently available in this country.  

Research shows that more of taxpayers’ money is spent on maintaining the Houses of Parliament than is made available for vital improvements on the rest of England’s 20 million privately rented and owner-occupied homes.  

Kate Markey, CEO of the Nationwide Foundation, said: “Having a safe and decent place to call home is fundamental so we can live, work and support our families. But this isn’t the reality faced by millions of people who are living in homes that pose a very real risk to their safety and long-term health.

“A long-term and cross-party strategy is urgently needed to transform England’s homes, one that will ensure decent, affordable and secure homes are available for all, especially our most vulnerable neighbours.” 

Henry Gregg, Director of External Affairs at Asthma + Lung UK, said: “No one should live in a home that damages their health and limits their life. Tackling the poor state of housing and improving the lives of people living in poverty must be a priority for the next government.

“Poverty is driving the worst death rates from lung conditions in Europe. Respiratory infections can thrive in colder temperatures and poorly ventilated, damp environments. If someone is exposed long-term to colder temperatures, damp and mould, this can affect their immune response and hamper their body’s ability to fight off lung infections.

“There must be a seismic shift in how the next government tackles poverty and health inequalities, making it easier for people to breathe.”

The Centre for Ageing Better, founder of the Safe Homes Now campaign, is calling for the establishment of a national network of local one-stop shops called Good Home Hubs that would help to tackle the national crisis of dangerous homes.  

Good Home Hubs would offer advice on home repairs and adaptations including where to find trusted tradespeople, identifying what work needs to be done, how to finance repairs and improve energy efficiency.  

A recent Safe Homes Now campaign survey revealed that more than one in two people (57%) would likely use a Good Home Hub if it was available in their area. 

Jabeer Butt OBE, Chief Executive at the Race Equality Foundation, said: “Awaab Ishak’s untimely death revealed a shocking series of failings, including racial stereotyping that blamed the family for causing the mould in his home.  Our analysis shows Black, Asian and minoritised ethnic are at greater risk of living in housing deprivation and that this is true into old age. 

“If the next government is serious about addressing the issues that matter, improving the quality of existing homes is essential.  Potentially not only improving people’s lives, but it will also address inequality and save the money spent on people falling ill because of poor housing.”

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