Whilst moves to promote ‘healthy’ communities through addressing green space provision are gaining traction, residents spend up to 90% of their time indoors and the Good Homes Alliance (GHA) believes more needs to be done to ensure that conditions inside do not cause negative health outcomes.
Poor quality housing
Evidence suggests that many new homes are of poor quality and suffer from issues such as ineffective ventilation and mould growth, which is leading to negative consequences for occupants’ health. Research by the BRE also states that old and inefficient housing causes an estimated £1.4-£2bn additional annual costs to the NHS.
The Good Homes Alliance recently worked alongside Place Alliance, Urban Design London, UCL, TCPA and others on a study to investigate how the design of our homes and neighbourhoods affected our experiences during the Covid-19 lockdown. The findings of a national survey of 2,500 households found that:
- One sixth of respondents were either uncomfortable or very uncomfortable. Extrapolated across the UK this would represent 10.7 million uncomfortable people.
- Dwellings were progressively less comfortable the newer they were, with the most recently built homes (built between 2010 and 2020) recording the lowest proportions of comfortable residents.
The ‘Healthy Homes Act’ Campaign
We wholeheartedly support the work of the Town and Country Planning Association (TCPA) in its campaign which calls on government to adopt a ‘Healthy Homes Bill’, which would require by law all new homes and neighbourhoods to be of decent quality, and outlaw those which undermine residents’ health and wellbeing.
For over 10 years, the GHA has been making the case for high-quality, low-carbon, healthy homes and communities via a range of activities including knowledge sharing events and conferences, research projects, lobbying and developing guidance and training.
The holistic approach of the Healthy Homes Principles closely align with many of the GHA’s themes, covering aspects such as adequate daylighting, minimising indoor air pollution, reducing unacceptable noise levels, being resilient to a changing climate and providing access to green space and sustainable transport.
The Good Homes Alliance has also participated in and given evidence to the All Party Parliamentary Group for Healthy Homes and Buildings, which published a white paper in October 2018 that set out a number of recommendations to enable the delivery of healthier buildings, including the need for cross-government action on health in the built environment to improve outcomes.
The paper recognised the prevalence of inadequate/under-performing ventilation, overheating, noise pollution, lack of standards for the control of indoor pollutants and inadequate buildings legislation. We understand that the APPG supports the aims of the HHA campaign and inputted into the drafting of the Healthy Homes Bill.
We also support the pioneering work of other organisations working in this space, such as the UK Indoor Environments Group, the HEMAC network, Public Health England (see recently published UK guidelines for volatile organic compounds in indoor spaces) and the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health which published ground-breaking reports led by Professor Stephen Holgate – ‘The inside story: Health effects of indoor air quality on children and young people’ and ‘Every breath we take: the lifelong impact of air pollution’.
The GHA will continue to support the TCPA as it promotes the bill throughout 2021 and beyond. The TCPA aims to keep working with parliamentarians to amend forthcoming legislation in line with the bill’s principles and lay it before parliament as a private member’s bill in the House of Lords later in the year.