Time for a Healthy Homes Revolution
How could the recommendations in the All Party Parliamentary Group for Healthy Homes and Building’s 2018 White Paper help end the delivery of poor quality homes in the North West?
Firstly, let’s focus on the need for improved governance; governance via a single responsible government department and a cross departmental committee for healthy homes and buildings. This could ensure that policy making decisions are joined up and public health and well-being are placed at the heart of decision making.
Following this, the Government would have to make sure that their target of 300,000 new homes per year are healthy new homes. These would be designed to improve the quality of life for the occupants by taking a holistic approach to building design. This would ensure all homes built in the North West are energy efficient, thermally comfortable, full of natural light, have good air quality, were spacious, safe and unwanted noise minimised.
Ideally, government funding would be available to research what makes a healthy home; evidence would be gathered via a database of building health, and national optimum building standards would be regularly updated based on the findings. Public awareness would also be raised, creating demand for healthy homes, and the industry would be upskilled to be able to design, build and renovate healthier indoor environments.
The retrofit of the current housing stock would be a priority and homes would be improved via a national renovation strategy to overcome issues damaging to health. A new local authority league table of housing standards and health standards for the private rented sector would also drive improvements to existing buildings.
Improved tools, like a building passport, would be available to help determine the measures required and drive improved in-use energy performance. Taxation could be used to further incentivise the public to make their own home improvements. Finally, enforcement and increased numbers of environmental enforcement officers would ensure all this happens.
All of this could deliver lower costs to the NHS, improved educational attainment and workplace productivity, reduced carbon emissions, lower energy bills, improved health and well-being and greater quality of life. It seems like a win win!
Of course, the local authorities in the North West do not need to wait for the UK Government and could implement many of these recommendations now, meaning they would reap the benefits of healthier homes and immediately help to improve lives of those living across the North West.