07 July, 2020
It has long been known that people from the most deprived areas of the country have poorer health and have a shorter life expectancy compared to people from more affluent areas. With the NHS under immense pressure especially given the COVID-19 pandemic it has become increasingly important for the housing sector to provide affordable healthy homes not just a constant supply of homes which although add to the Government's target figures may not actually be fit for purpose.
Prior to looking at what constitutes a healthy home, it is important to consider what an unhealthy or unsuitable home looks like. According to Public Health England (PHE), an unhealthy home and/or unsuitable home may be too hot or too cold, it could have damp or other hazards such as access issues for people suffering from disabilities and/ or overcrowding. A good healthy home would not have any of the above issues, it would be located somewhere which has local access to affordable food, access to the natural environment, and infrastructure for active travel and public transport. In addition, homes need to be affordable and accessible for people from all different backgrounds. An example of healthy home in a healthy neighbourhood is the 15-minute city in Paris where everything is a 15-minute walk away. This means less air and noise pollution and greater green space and generally better physical and mental health of the residents.
Most people will accept what the image of a healthy home should look like, however, the Rainsford Review carried out by the Town and Country Planning Association (TCPA) states we seem to be building modern day slums. The review investigated the concerns surrounding the quality of new build homes and found many examples of very poor quality of homes being built. Some examples include houses without any rear exits, bedsits without any windows and apartments with windows no bigger than a cat flap.
The TCPA have drafted a Healthy Homes Act which contains principles to put people's health at the centre of this discussion. The Healthy Homes Act is being pushed by the TCPA as legislation which would be implemented through planning and building regulations. This would aim to regulate the current processes by which planning approval and subsequent building takes place. Of course our Housing Sector clients already consider and adhere to various standards set by the Regulator and other advisory bodies, which form their minimum requirements with contractors. However this legislation would perhaps make more of an impact in other sectors.
One thing is clear though, given the lock down restrictions we have all faced and working from home becoming the new way forward it is very important for homes to support our mental and physical well-being. Homes now more than ever need to provide a haven and have the ability to become an office, or a school, or a playground or even a holiday destination. The quality and versatility of new homes can play a major role in supporting health and wellbeing.
For more information contact Sabina Patel in our Housing & Regeneration department via email or phone on 01254 222410. Alternatively send any question through to Forbes Solicitors via our online Contact Form.