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Healthy Homes Campaign- Updates

This resource is part of a collection called Campaign for Healthy Homes.

Cross-party group of Peers united in their support for Lord Crisp’s Healthy Homes amendment ahead of vote at Report Stage

Yesterday was an important day for the Healthy Homes campaign. Peers from across the political spectrum made the case for Lords Crisp (CB), Young of Cookham (Con), Stunell (Lib Dem) and Blunkett’s (Lab) House of Lords committee stage amendment to the Building Safety Bill. This lays the ground for a vote on the amendment at Report Stage.

Lord Crisp’s amendment would ensure that the Building Safety Regulator, introduced by the Bill, would understand ‘safety’ as not just the absence of immediate physical harm, but also in terms of people’s wider health and wellbeing.

Lord Crisp (Cross Bench) made a powerful introduction to the amendment:

“We must not miss this opportunity to take a holistic view of safety. Do we want a future where we have regulated appropriately for fire but, to take just one example that the Committee will be addressing, let people fall down unsafe steps, even though we know what can be done to prevent it?” 

Lord Stunell followed this by making the case for a regulatory system based on a clear and strong ambition:

…it’s that broader outlook, that broader vision of what we actually mean by making a building safe – creating a safe home for people – which lies at the heart of this amendment.” 

Baroness Hayman of Ullock (Lab) then outlined Labour’s support for Lord Crisp’s amendment, and how it will enable the Building Safety Bill’s content to match its aspirations:

“The opposition strongly supports Lord Crisp’s amendment. Safety is currently undefined in the bill. So it is simply not clear whether people’s health and wellbeing should be considered by the building regulator. This lack of clarity is unhelpful because the safety of people is generally defined as an absence of health risks or harms. By broadening the definition of safety in this part of the bill, the amendment provides an opportunity to look at the risks beyond high-rise buildings and fire and to address housing health and safety issues which the Bill’s title claims to address.”

The Earl of Lytton (Cross Bench) and Lord Foster of Bath (Lib Dem) also offered strong support for the amendment during the debate.

Yesterday’s debate signalled to the Government the strength of support for Lord Crisp’s amendment in the Lords. In doing so, it lays the ground for it to be voted on, and potentially added to the Bill, at Report Stage. We will be in touch again once a date has been set for this.

You can find the briefing we shared with Peers at committee stage here. A transcript of the full debate can be found here

Westminster Hall debate shows strength of feeling about poor housing quality across the political spectrum

During a Westminster Hall debate on Wednesday, both Labour and Conservative MPs raised concerns over the quality of many new build homes, highlighting the damaging impact of the government’s expansion of permitted development rights and calling for the introduction of improved or legally-binding housing standards.    

The shadow minister for housing and planning, Matthew Pennycook MP (Lab), said: 

“…the Government must, as a minimum, rescind the damaging relaxation of permitted development rights and return those powers to local government. Ministers should then turn their attention to what more the Government must do to encourage the creation of thriving communities that support the health and wellbeing of their residents, not least by implementing comprehensive national housing standards so that developers—particularly the volume housebuilders—have no choice but to deliver in core place making.” 

David Johnston MP (Con), the Conservative MP who led the debate, also argued powerfully for raising housing standards, and concluded: 

“As the chief executive of one of my local housing associations said to me, “[Developers] are building something to walk away from, and we are buying something we need to maintain for people to live in for 50 to 100 years.” That is at the core of the problem….a home should be a sanctuary, not a place of great stress.” 

The Building Safety Bill is currently making its way through Parliament and will soon reach report stage in the House of Commons. Amending the Bill to make its contents as ambitious as its long title – that is, to ensure the safety (and therefore health) of all people in or about buildings – would address the concerns raised by some MPs in the debate on Wednesday, by requiring developers to build all new homes to a standard which supports people’s health and wellbeing. Those which do not would be outlawed. 

Wednesday’s debate makes clear that concern for poor housing quality goes beyond party politics. Introducing legally-binding housing standards that consider all factors that shape people’s health and safety in or about buildings – not just risk of fire – to the Building Safety Bill, would be an ambitious but practical solution that would improve thousands of people’s lives. We are currently working with Lord Nigel Crisp to do this.  

The TCPA will publish an urgent briefing about how the Building Safety Bill could still be used to transform the quality of the built environment before it reaches report stage in the Commons.

Date published: 10/2/22

LGA publishes report ‘Building an inclusive society in the post-pandemic world’

The Local Government Association has published a new report which explicitly recognises the link between housing and health.  It calls for the delivery of tens of thousands of new affordable homes which are “delivered through a locally-led planning system with public participation at its heart which gives communities the power to ensure new developments are of a high standard…[and are]…built in the right places”, as a key part of the recovery from COVID-19.

A Healthy Homes Act would guarantee the delivery of quality homes while also ensuring that these homes were accompanied by the infrastructure needed to create high quality, sustainable places such as access to green space and good active travel links.

Date published: 22/4/21

Public Bill Committee debates TCPA advice to introduce ‘health’ to the Building Safety Bill’s definition of ‘safety’

Since 9 September the House of Commons Public Bill Committee has been scrutinising the Government’s Building Safety Bill (BSB) – landmark legislation that represents the Government’s most substantial response to the Grenfell disaster. 

The bill’s scope means that it presents a huge opportunity for real reform, which transforms not just how we ensure that tall buildings at risk of fire are safe, but the whole of the built environment. In its current form, it does not capitalise on this opportunity. It is nowhere near ambitious enough.

The Bill’s long title states that it ‘Makes provision about the safety of people in or about buildings and the standard of buildings…’. But the ‘safety of people’ is generally defined as an absence of health risks or harms, and many important building-related risks or harms are not dealt with in the current BSB.  Such health risks include those caused by air pollution, overheating, a lack of access to greenspace and walkable neighbourhoods and cramped living conditions, among others. 

Introducing a definition of safety which includes the concept of ‘health’ would open the bill up to considering critical factors like these. This is what Shadow Planning Minister, Ruth Cadbury, and Shadow Minister for Housing, Communities and Local Government, Mike Amesbury, argued in the Public Bill Committee last week. Their amendment read:

“In this part [of the Bill], “safety” means risk of harm arising from the location, construction or operation of buildings which may injure the health and wellbeing of the individual.” 

Citing the TCPA’s written evidence to the Committee, Mike Amesbury stated:

“…health risks and harms such as air pollution, overheating and noise pollution, as well as more indirect issues, such as poor accessibility or walkability, insecurity, lack of access to green space and cramped living conditions, are not covered by the Bill but undermine people’s wellbeing and health and ultimately their safety. I therefore hope that the Minister will consider the amendment.”

After an important debate, Amesbury and Cadbury withdrew their amendment. This is a major milestone for the Healthy Homes Act campaign, which lays the groundwork for further efforts to make the bill more ambitious as it moves through the legislative processes. Lord Nigel Crisp will be leading our campaign in the House of Lords.

To read the full transcript from the debate, click here.

Date published: 23/09/2021

UCL research shows that those living in overcrowded houses are at greater risk of COVID-19

The UCL Virus Watch research team have published new research which finds that members of overcrowded households are 2 to 4 times more likely to have been infected with the COVID-19 virus.  These findings echo those of a previous study carried out by the Health Foundation last year.  

This research underlines the importance of ensuring that all homes are spacious enough to allow for adequate ventilation and social distancing, both of which are factors known to significantly reduce virus transmission rates.  On 22nd September, the UCL research team will be hosting an online panel discussion with experts in the field of health and housing policy to present the research findings, highlight the link between housing and COVID-19, and to discuss ways forward.  You can register for this event, here.      

UCL’s research concludes that “measures to protect overcrowded households from COVID-19 and promote healthier housing should be considered and evaluated…In the long run, minimum space and ventilation requirements and increasing the availability of affordable, appropriate housing should be considered”.  Over the next few months, the TCPA will be focussing on securing amendments to the Building Safety Bill to widen its scope from purely fire safety to a much wider consideration of how buildings affect the health and safety of their inhabitants, including requiring new homes to provide the liveable space needed to meet the needs of people over their whole lifetime.  This Bill presents a rare opportunity to fundamentally change the way we regulate the built environment so that homes are built to a decent standard and do not risk people’s long-term health and wellbeing.

Find more on the TCPA’s Healthy Homes Act campaign here

Date published: 10/09/2021