The Tory government’s Housing and Planning Act could damage Islington residents’ health, an Islington Council report has warned.
Concerns around increased overcrowding, reduced ability to rehouse vulnerable people, and the negative impact on residents with mental health issues have been raised by the council. The report, prepared by the Housing Strategy, Improvement and Partnerships Team, was presented to the Health and Wellbeing Board on 6th July.
It is estimated that poor housing costs the NHS £2.5bn a year treating illnesses linked to living in cold, damp and dangerous homes.
The Housing and Planning Act includes many measures that will affect Islington, including the forced sale of council homes, the Tenant Tax, and changes to tenancies for new tenants. Many challenges stem from fewer homes being available for letting, with the council expecting to lose a third of empty properties due to the forced sale of council homes that the government is imposing.
Commenting on the report, Executive Member for Health and Adult Social Care, Cllr Janet Burgess, said: “The Housing Act represents a threat to people’s health. Overcrowding is a real problem in Islington, and the measures the government are enforcing will mean that people may choose to live in unsuitable homes for longer to avoid the risks that moving could bring.
“I will be writing with my colleague Cllr Ward to the government about the health impacts of the Housing Act. The government really needs to think again about the real impact of its plans on people’s health and the added costs this will put on the already strained NHS.”
Cllr Diarmaid Ward, Executive Member for Housing and Development, added: “We have been fighting the Housing Act since it was first proposed, and we will continue to pursue any legal route available to us to challenge the Act and to mitigate its consequences. Measures like the forced sale of homes, the Tenant Tax, and changes to tenancies for new tenants, could see increased housing related stress and have other negative consequences for residents’ health.”
The council report notes that –
- Multiple housing problems increase children’s risk of ill-health by up to 25% during childhood and early adulthood.
- 22% of people living in areas with high proportions of social housing have long term health conditions, compared with 9% in areas with no social housing.
- Prevalence of certain types of health issues are high for those living in social housing, Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (24%), asthma (15%), chronic liver disease (57%), stroke (14%), Chronic Heart Disease (10%).
The report also highlights particular risks to people requiring rehousing after being discharged from hospital and less supported housing being provided when the 1% rent reduction is applied after a delay of one year.
Over the past year Islington Labour haa been opposing the Housing Bill and raising awareness of the damaging effects it would have. Some of the actions we have taken include:
- May 2015 - We led a four-borough group to commission the first research showing how damaging the forced sale of council homes will be in London.
- June 2015 - We first raised the threat of the council homes sell off in the national press.
- June 2015 - We organised a contingent on a march through central London under the banner 'Our Homes: Our London', supported by Unite, GMB, and London Labour Housing Group.
- September/October 2015 - Along with colleagues across London, we wrote to, lobbied, and publicly called on housing associations not to accept the voluntary RTB extension.
- October 2015 - At the council we passed a unanimous motion against the housing associations' voluntary RTB deal and urged them to protect social housing in Islington.
- November/December 2015 - We responded to the government's consultation on pay to stay, setting out how damaging the policy will be for Islington, as well giving evidence to the Bill committee.
- January 2016 – Cllr James Murray, Executive Member for Housing and Development, raised again the damaging effect of council home sell off on London through a piece on BBC London News.
- February 2016 - Councillors attended the Islington Hands Off Our Public Services meeting at Islington Town Hall to set out how the damaging the Bill would be for Islington and to continue to oppose it.
- March 2016 – Public meeting held at the Town Hall for tenants about potential impact of Bill.
- June 2016 – Motion passed on Tenant Tax at Full Council.
- September/October 2016 – Further public meeting planned.