Group of boys walking down autumnal street

Multiple long-term conditions

Health and secure homes

Exploring the impact of housing on our health

Introduction

Where you live matters for your health. A home is far more than just bricks and mortar or a roof over our heads; it is a safe and stable foundation on which to build our health. There is growing evidence that secure, affordable homes that are in good condition can protect our health and wellbeing, reducing the incidence of long-term health conditions. But too often, people in Lambeth and Southwark are living in unsuitable, unstable homes that put their health at risk.

Public Health England recognises that, throughout England, precarious housing increases people’s risk of developing both mental and physical health conditions.

The insecurity and uncertainty of housing damages our health, in addition to overcrowded, unhealthy homes being linked to respiratory and cardiovascular illness and poor mental health. In Lambeth and Southwark, bad housing and mental ill health commonly go together, as shown in figure 8.

The private rented sector

The most precarious tenancies and the worst living conditions are found in the private rented sector. Here, insecure, poor quality housing is compounded by a lack of support and protection of tenants. Yet more Londoners living on low incomes, including in our boroughs, are renting privately than ever before and these properties house a disproportionate number of Black, Asian and ethnic minority tenants.

In Lambeth and Southwark, the precarity of housing and its negative effects on health affect some people more than others. Black people are greatly overrepresented among the homeless; their share in the homeless population is double that of the total population in Southwark.

Relationships with our landlords, the affordability and security of our houses and connections with our neighbourhoods have a particularly strong effect on our mental health. If our home is precarious, so is our mental health. People facing housing insecurity can experience intense levels of mental distress – we know that 45% of renters experience anxiety as a direct result of their living situation. While those in temporary accommodation, the least secure living situation, experience depression at over twice the rate of the general population.

Because poor mental health is a driver of physical long-term health conditions, there is a pressing need to address the problem of insecure, unsuitable housing in our place if we are to slow down people’s progression to multiple long-term conditions.

The lack of social housing in London means people have no choice but to look at the private market. This means it’s not always possible for people to stay close by their network of family, friends or support services, who might have been helping them to manage their health.

Sandra Axell Housing Support Practitioner, Kineara

What we're doing

Taking inspiration from community organisations here in Lambeth and Southwark, as well as from others trying new, exciting approaches in urban housing, we are working with partners to test creative interventions that shift power and give tenants a stronger voice.

We want to work with more organisations that can consider and address the effect of housing on people’s health, particularly in the private rented sector. We believe we can have a marked impact on health in local communities by taking every opportunity to make homes more secure, affordable and accessible, to reduce the incidence and fear of evictions and to better support renters in moving out of the precarious private sector.

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Explore how work, money and homes can make our cities healthier and fairer

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