New network launches to improve health outcomes from London’s housing

Two men make use of a colourful outdoor gym in a park next to some urban tower blocks
Credit: David Jones on Flickr under Creative Commons

Future of London is launching the Health and Housing Impact Network, a new professional network for health and housing leaders to work together to tackle health issues caused by bad housing.

There is significant evidence that living in housing that is unaffordable, poor quality and  insecure is bad for health. The stress caused by unsuitable housing has direct and potentially long-lasting effects on health.

The rising cost of living has made this even more pressing as housing is often a household’s highest cost. Renting privately is on the rise, with those on the lowest incomes spending up to two-thirds of their monthly income on rent.

Concerns are growing about ill-health and housing

The network has been set up in response to growing concerns about housing-related ill-health. Leading practitioners across health, housing and related fields have asked for a space where they can share knowledge and identify practical, innovative solutions to test.

The new network will bring together practitioners, including representatives from London boroughs, housing associations, Department of Health and Social Care, and the NHS as well as the private, voluntary and community sectors.

There is already a strong business case for investing in housing to improve health and wellbeing. Spending £1.1 billion now on improving the quality, affordability and security of people’s homes would mitigate the health hazards in London’s housing in future, according to the Institute of Health Equity.

The annual cost to the NHS of housing-related ill-health in London is £114 million so the investment would pay back within ten years.

The network is backed by Impact on Urban Health (IUH), which seeks to improve health in cities by tackling inequalities and is part of the Guy’s & St Thomas’ Foundation.

Hannah Gibbs, Head of Partnerships and Services at Future of London, said:

“There is no question about the impact of poor housing on people’s health and now is the time to act decisively with council-led housebuilding increasing and growing concerns about conditions in the private rented sector.

“Practitioners in health and across the built environment sector are committed to improving health outcomes and the Health and Housing Impact Network will help build their capacity to do so.”

The creation of this network is backed by three years of research by Future of London and Catherine Max Consulting. Practitioners from different professions with an interest in housing told us they wanted more opportunities to develop new ways to work together.

Guided by a cross-sector steering group, the network will have the resources to investigate success stories and identify ways to overcome barriers to increase impact on policy, strategy, and delivery.

Michael Parsons, Portfolio Manager at Impact for Urban Health, said:

“At Impact on Urban Health we believe that safe, secure, affordable housing is essential to our health and wellbeing. We are excited to work with Future of London to bring together a broad range of organisations that also understand the deep links between our health and our homes.

“We know that working together will help us to identify the most effective ways to develop initiatives that promote good health. We look forward to the innovative approaches the Health and Housing Impact Network will foster.”

Maria Morgan, Executive Director of Kineara and member of the H&HIN steering group, said:

“A lot of clients we work with each day talk about high levels of anxiety, leading to depression and other mental health concerns. The stress can create physical health problems too, particularly as a number of our clients also struggle with food poverty.

“We really want the opportunity to share those experiences so they can have an impact on policy and ideas, and also to learn because things are changing all the time. That’s what is so exciting about this network and why I want to play a part in it.”

Michael Chang, Programme Manager for Planning and Health at the Office for Health Improvement and Disparities, said:

“There are a range of opportunities to improve health outcomes by improving housing quality. A lot are to do with investment in retrofitting existing homes and influencing the design of new homes through regulation together with planners, developers, and other housing providers.

“But there are still barriers across the whole system. It’s not just about money and it’s not just about policy. You need to think about the whole system to design health into new housing developments.

“The Health & Housing Impact Network will think about how best we can improve the current policy and practice, and ultimately make an impact on people’s quality of life.”

Find out more about the Health and Housing Impact Network, including short video interviews with Maria Morgan and Michael Chang, here.

Subscribe to the mailing list for update on events and network activities here.

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