Monday 2 July 2018 / 12:01 AM John Healey / Jonathan Ashworth / Press Releases

Labour set out plans for Healthy Homes Zones to mark the 70th anniversary of the NHS

In the week of the 70th anniversary of the founding of the NHS, the Labour Party are setting out, in the spirit of Nye Bevan’s original vision, new plans to bring together health and housing. Bevan was responsible for both health and housing policy in the post-war Labour Government.

Shadow Health Secretary Jonathan Ashworth and Shadow Housing Secretary John Healey are today announcing:

  • Proposals for new ‘Healthy Homes Zones’ as part of a consultation on a range of measures to reduce housing-related health inequalities which are estimated to cost the NHS £1.4bn 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.
  • A new requirement for a healthy housing strategy for every local area.

The plan comes as new research shows that current Tory arrangements for reducing housing related health inequalities are failing, with 3 in 10 Health and Wellbeing Boards failing to address housing needs.

New Labour analysis shows the Tory failure on health and housing:

Official guidance says that: “Local Health and Wellbeing Boards have a duty to understand the health and wellbeing of their communities…. The inclusion of housing and housing circumstances, e.g. homelessness…. should inform the Health and Wellbeing Strategy and local commissioning”.

However, exclusive analysis from the Labour Party shows that:

  • 31% of Health and Wellbeing Boards (47 of 152) have no specific section on housing or homelessness in their current Health and Wellbeing Strategy
  •  5 areas don’t mention housing at all in their HWB strategies, while 77, more than half, fail to mention homelessness
  • The problem is particularly bad in Conservative-run council areas where 36% of HWB strategies have no specific section on housing.
  • Among the key Tory-run councils which fail to set out a healthy housing strategy are the local councils of Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt (Surrey), Housing Secretary James Brokenshire (Bexley) and Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson (Hillingdon)

Labour’s plan to reduce the effect of poor housing on health

Labour will shortly release a consultation on health and housing with proposals including:

  • 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

Jonathan Ashworth MP, Labour’s Shadow Health Secretary, said:

“Labour in establishing the NHS 70 years ago knew of the link between health outcomes and quality of housing, indeed Nye Bevan was both Minister for Health and Housing. As part of our determination to narrow health inequalities and tackle the wider social determinants of poor health, we must again more closely align health and housing policy. Housing related health problems are costing the NHS an estimated £1.4bn a year and poor housing can ruins people’s lives so for Labour in Government, in the spirit of Bevan’s original vision, it will be a priority to combat housing related illness and ensure nobody’s poor home damages their health.”

John Healey, Labour’s Shadow Housing Secretary, said:

“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.”


Notes to editors

Labour’s analysis of housing plans by Health and Wellbeing Boards is based on the current or most recent Health and Wellbeing Strategy published on each HWB website for which a strategy is publicly available, including SurreyBexley and Hillingdon.

Guidance on the role of Health and Wellbeing Boards in bringing together health and housing taken from the 2014 “Memorandum of Understanding to support joint action on improving health through the home” signed by the Department of Health, DCLG, Public Health England, NHS England, the LGA and the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services.

The Government’s other most recent indicator on health integration in England was the publication of 44 NHS Sustainability and Transformation Plans in 2016. But the King’s Fund says: “most STPs do not include housing as a core theme.” And recently: “It is clear that most STPs have a lot further to go to realise the potential of housing to health.”

Health conditions related to the most severe instance of poor housing are estimated to cost the NHS £1.4bn a year, according to a study by the Building Research Establishment.

Labour’s proposals will be released as part of a consultation shortly. Plans for ‘Healthy Homes Zones;’ areas with particularly poor housing would be targeted for intensive intervention including: new funding for the inspection of homes and enforcement of standards, additional powers for requiring the licensing of private landlords and houses in multiple occupation, a tougher sanctions regime to break the business model of rogue landlords letting out dangerous homes.

The proposed £50m Housing and Health Inequalities Fund will be found from the NHS funding plans set out by Labour at the General Election. 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.

The new Healthy Homes Zones would pay particular attention to homes let by private landlords because they tend to be older and of a worse standard than any other type of housing. Half of private rented homes were built pre-war and nearly 800,000 have the worst ‘category 1’ hazards which pose a serious risk to the health of the people living in them. The table below sets out the number of these homes by region.

Number of unfit private rented homes As a proportion of private rented stock
North East 22,452 11%
North West 128,628 22%
Yorkshire and the Humber 96,804 19%
East Midlands 79,481 21%
West Midlands 112,973 26%
East 96,586 20%
London 90,950 10%
South East 69,518 10%
South West 97,208 20%
ENGLAND 794,600 17%

Source: Labour analysis of the English Housing Survey