Shelter, the national homelessness charity, has found that the health of one in five renters in England (1.9 million households) is being harmed by poor housing.
The research by Shelter, a national YouGov poll, has found the most common rental conditions that are negatively affecting renters’ mental and physical health. These include:
- damp and mould (affecting 26% of renters)
- being unable to heat their home (also 26%)
- constantly struggling to pay rent (21%)
- fear of eviction (19%)
Shelter has found that renters who experience any of these issues with living conditions are three times more likely to say their housing is a factor in their ill-health than those living without any of these issues.
Renters are under intense pressure
Another poll that Shelter conducted with only renters from private landlords, found the deeper impact of housing problems on people’s mental and physical health since the start of the pandemic:
- 39% said their housing problems or worries left them feeling stressed and anxious
- 22% said their housing issues or worries made them physically sick
- 21% said their housing issues had negatively affected their performance at work
This research comes as many renters are faced with another challenging winter, from increasing fuel costs and the £20 cut to Universal Credit when many of those accessing it still haven’t seen an improvement in their financial situation, as well as shorter notice periods for many private renters taking effect.
44% of those turning to Shelter for their support in the past year who were renters noted struggling to cope on a daily basis
Chief executive of Shelter, Polly Neate said: “The cost of poor housing is spilling out into overwhelmed GP surgeries, mental health services, and hours lost from work. The new Housing Secretary must get a grip on the housing crisis and tackle a major cause of ill health.”
“Listening to the calls flooding into our helpline there is no doubt that health and housing go hand in hand. Yet, millions of renters are living in homes that make them sick because they are mouldy, cold, unaffordable and grossly insecure. The stress and suffering that comes with not knowing if you can pay your rent from month to month, or if you will face eviction is huge.”
Speaking on the action that might be taken to tackle this issue, Neate said: “The government can ease the pressure on renters’ health now by providing targeted grants to clear rent arrears built up during the pandemic, and by making good on its promise to reform private renting. But ultimately the housing crisis will never be cured until we build the decent social homes that more people need to live a healthy life.”
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A woman included in Shelter’s research spoke on her experience of being evicted by her private landlord under a Section 21 eviction (which means a landlord doesn’t have to give a reason when they force a tenant out), and her difficulties in finding a new home due to her being on Universal Credit, before the council stepped in:
“Most landlords don’t accept people on Universal Credit, so it was hard to find another home. I thought we’re going to be out on the streets. It’s made me really depressed and anxious, I’m on antidepressants because of how stressed I’ve been.”
Reflecting on the undeniable impact that housing and living conditions have on mental health, Vicki Nash, Head of Policy, Campaigns and Public Affairs at Mind has said: “Shelter’s worrying report shows the impact poor and unstable housing has on our mental health. Everyone deserves a safe, affordable, stable, and suitable place to live, not somewhere which makes us feel ‘hopeless’, and worsens our mental health. Social issues such as jobs, housing and benefits play a huge role in the nation’s mental health. Addressing the underlying causes of poor mental health can prevent people being pushed into poverty, allow people to live independently, and reduce the need for more intensive support further down the line.”
If we are to tackle the current mental health crisis that the nation is experiencing in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, it must be under a holistic approach. We must not fail to look at the socioeconomic and quality of life factors, such as housing and financial stability that play such a huge part in how people manage, when their mental health is being knocked by circumstances out of their control.
If you are struggling with poor living conditions or are worried about losing your home you can contact Shelter for free and receive expert advice through their emergency helpline, webchat service or dedicated housing advice webpages. Visit their ‘get help’ page here.