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Better housing is crucial for our health and the Covid-19 recovery

Poverty crop

Dr Amy Clair has co-authored a new report with Adam Tinson at the thinktank The Health Foundation, which finds that cramped housing, damp conditions and other poor quality accommodation issues may have led to an increase risk of Covid-19 infection.

Read The Guardian coverage of this report

‘While the COVID-19 pandemic has served to highlight the role housing plays in health, it is a critical wider determinant of health at all times – not just this year. Housing problems are likely a significant component of the ‘syndemic’ that has led to greater risks of COVID-19 infection and serious complications for certain social groups. As discussed in this research, problems such as overcrowding, poor quality and unaffordable homes are a threat to health.

There are a range of short-term measures to help tackle risks to health. Intervening to improve housing’s impact on health will offer opportunities to address other interrelated environmental and economic challenges. These include:

  • needing to reduce carbon emissions and be resilient towards more extreme climates (incorporating temperature management rather than simply retaining heat)

  • catering for the likely shift in the type and size of accommodation required, resulting from the demographic shift towards an ageing population

  • investing in more housebuilding and home improvements (supporting economic recovery as well as developing housing stock)

  • adapting relevant policies and provisions to enable people to use their homes (and local transport and services) in different ways, with more people working from home as a long-term consequence of the pandemic.

The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the importance of homes, both the good and the bad. For many people, the nature of the housing stock and housing system meant that the experience of the pandemic since March 2020 has been even worse than it needed to be. The challenge is to ensure that housing starts to make a positive contribution to health for more people. Even if the beginning of the end of the pandemic leads to homes taking a less prominent role in our lives, guaranteeing housing that is affordable, high quality and secure will still offer great dividends for health and wellbeing.’

Read the full Health Foundation piece here