06 Jun 2022

Building homes to live well

Senior policy and practice officer Sarah Davis explains CIH’s continued commitment to the TCPA’s Healthy Homes Bill and campaign

The vital place of our homes in ensuring our safety, health and wellbeing has been in the spotlight a lot recently. In addition to experiences throughout the pandemic, a number of government actions have also highlighted this over the past few months:

  • The Building Safety Act received royal assent in April and will be brought into force over the next 18 months – encompassing the government’s response to the conditions that resulted in the loss of 72 people in the Grenfell Tower fire.
  • A focus on safety and common standards across all rented housing (private as well as social sector) is being considered in the government’s review of the Decent Homes Standard, and as part of its ambition to halve the number of non-decent rented homes by 2030 – set out in its Levelling Up White Paper.
  • The government’s adult social care reform white paper, People at the Heart of Care, seeks to drive a greater strategic join up across health, care and housing to address the rising demand for social care by increasing housing options that support health and wellbeing, notably through increasing development of supported and specialist housing.

However, in terms of driving a greater, proactive focus improving health through the home, there are still some notable hindrances:

  • We are still waiting for the government’s response to the calls for higher accessibility standards in all new homes to be the default requirement– CIH and TCPA are both members of the HoME coalition calling for this.
  • Permitted development rights still allow for some really poor housing to be delivered from office and retail conversions, without any contribution to local community priorities, including more social rented and affordable homes.

Above all what is missing is a more comprehensive attempt to bring together lots of disparate frameworks into one that enables local authorities and communities to focus on planning places that underpin health and wellbeing across all tenures. That is why the TCPA’s ongoing campaign, and Lord Crisp’s Healthy homes private member’s bill remain so important.

The bill will enshrine the principles defining healthy homes which will pull together aspects of safety (including fire safety) with accessibility and measures to address sustainability and tackle pollutants that impact health. The Secretary of state will have a duty to secure people’s health, safety, wellbeing and convenience in buildings; it will introduce a Healthy Homes Commissioner to promote and secure the implementation of the principles, and require local authorities to plan for affordable housing needs.

In doing so, the bill proposes measures that address new housing development that CIH has long called for – not only in numbers but in quality, being affordable and accessible, and that supports the health and wellbeing of local people and communities – and does so by introducing a broad overarching framework under which the other measures on safety, health and care can sit. That is why CIH supports the Healthy Homes campaign.