Housing in Great Britain: Health and Society Impact

  • 20 Pages
  • Published On: 09-11-2023


The concept of housing is that they are building structures which comply with the laws and regulations allowing the individuals with families to live in a safe and enclosed environment. According to WHO, Housing is place where fundamental physical, emotional and social well-being along with enhanced quality life can be achieved. For many years, it is seen that housing has a key role in affecting and controlling health of the individuals (WHO, 2018). This is because safe housing provides safety from danger, ensure privacy, comfortable place to sleep, place to prepare healthy meals in controlling health and others. Thus, in this assignment housing history in Great Britain is to be discussed. The impact of housing on health along with impact of homelessness to health and society is also to be discussed.

History of Housing in the UK

In between 1760-1830, the industrial revolution was seen to be growing at a huge rate within the UK that led many people to be flocked for living in the inner cities as their jobs were in the new factories being established. In this era, rapid development of accommodations was seen to be built by the private enterprise to accommodate the large factory population. The houses built were usually two-roomed with one in the upper portion and another at the ground floor, the water provided was from a communal cast-iron pump with presence of common outdoor lavatories (economicshelp.org, 2018). These houses were regarded to be slums in the UK. However, all the houses were not slums in the era and the growing middle class and new businessman developed well-structured Victorian houses in proper localities where the water and lavatories along with other basic amenities were separately available with multiple rooms in each house (theguardian, 214).


In the UK, before the First World War, there was hardly any form of social housing provided by the government other than the workhouses. The workhouses did not typically represent the normal housing where people can relax and be on their own instead they were most likely prison where each individual has to work hard for 12 hours a day and follow strict rules to live in the place (Brown, 2016). During the Victorian era, houses were found to be rented for living purpose. In 1915, the Rent Act was introduced to control the increasing and inappropriate renting structure for housing in the country (commonslibrary.parliament.uk, 2018). The initiation of the First World War reflected the poor health and concerned condition of many of the working class of individuals. About this, the Llyod government developed the Housing and Town Planning Act 1919 in which the government took the first step to build housing to be used for social purpose. The Act led to the cost of building new houses to be shared between tenants, Local and Treasury Councils (legislation.gov.uk, 1919). In 1924, the Wheatley Housing Act was formed to subsidize the building cost of the council houses (parliament.uk, 1924). These initiatives led for the first time in creation of new council housing estates for the public.

The council housing estates were mainly semi-detached houses that are designed for the war heroes under affordable rates. These estates in the early times were made adjacent to areas of employment. In the UK, by the end of 1933, it was seen that 500,000 council houses were made which led to new form of housing development in the country. In the 1920s, apart from council housing, a sharp surge in the growth and building of private housing was also seen under the assistance of Chamberlian Housing Act 1923 that provided monetary subsidies to the private builders. In between 1919-193, more than half a million of the houses were found to be built with the help of the private sector builders (Slater, 2018; nationalarchives.gov.uk, 2019). The private estates build during this era are mainly the block estates which in the modern terminology can be referred as medium or low flats (nationalarchives.gov.uk, 2019).

After the Second World War, increased growth of home-ownership was seen with decline in privately rented houses (economicshelp.org, 2018). In the 1950s, mixed estates of multi-storied houses and flats were initiated to be commonly built. In each flat, a motorized rubbish chute was established that led to the central incinerator (economicshelp.org, 2018). In 1980, the introduction of Right to Buy Act by Mrs Thatcher's government lead many council tenants to feel encouraged in buying council houses at discounted rate to be used for personal living. It led to fall in the social housing and rise in home-ownership (socialhousinghistory.uk, 2018). By 1990, many multi-storey houses and low flats were destroyed that are built during the 1950s and 1960s due to their hindered condition of the building structure. After the housing crash in the 1990s, the number of homes built by the local authorities was seen to fell to 150,000 a year that was all-time low (socialhousinghistory.uk, 2018). After the credit crunch in 2008 for housing, it was seen there was hardship faced to avail mortgage of houses. Moreover, with the rise in overall prices of housing and building materials since the 2000s, it was seen that at the current condition increases percentage of private renting increased with fall in homeowners (economicshelp.org, 2018).

Housing issues concerning contemporary health inequalities

According to Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1998, Article 28) “ Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and wellbeing of himself as well as of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care”. Every human being needs to have access to basic necessities to live a better life and enjoy all benefit provided by the government or local authorities across the country and beyond. Poor housing has been identified as the major factor affecting human health in societies. The World Health Organisation (1946) defines health as state of complete physical, mental and social well-being, while, poor housing conditions are associated with various health issues such as respiratory infections, asthma, lead to poisoning, injuries and mental health (WHO, 2018).

The two concepts are complex of social concern and in general, people that live in poor quality houses they turn to experience physical and mental health challenges a result of the living environmental condition. The people with housing problems were impacted negatively on their health as they often experience mental illness. Various factors are associated with poor quality houses that have a huge impact on health of humans as follows: cold, overcrowded, dump, poor sanitary and poorly ventilated homes (Baker et al., 2020). The presence of well-ventilated homes are important as ventilation allows controlling the amount of moisture and dust particles present in the home. The ventilation is also essential at homes to prevent indoor pollutants, cooking odours, smoke and others to negatively affect health (Sarma et al., 2018). However, people living in poor housing condition are seen to have confided living spaces with lack of effective ventilation. This condition negatively affects their health by raising risk of respiratory diseases (Walters, 2017). It is evident as hindered ventilation in poor housing leads pollutants and smoke remain within the room which has harmful impact on the lungs of the individuals while taken in during breathing and this, in turn, makes them gradually develop respiratory issues such as chest infection and others (Cheung and Jim, 2019).

Overcrowding is one of the physical impacts on health that associates with housing crisis on many households in the world in general, and particularly in the UK. Many people are unable to rent out rented houses by themselves so they opted to share small spaces with other families and more people turn to live in a single room (Rahman et al., 2018). As a result, people opted to live in unsanitary condition which is associated with moral depravity and public disorder. This is evident as sharing small spaces among people leads many individuals to use one lavatory or bathroom during which effective hygienic condition is unable to be maintained. It leads to creating breeding grounds of microorganisms which in the unhygienic condition are transmitted through food, water and others inside the body of the people to cause infectious diseases (Buergelt et al., 2017). Thus, overcrowding influence people to live in confined unhygienic condition out of lack of living places which creates poor health consequences for them to develop infectious diseases such as cholera, diarrhoea and others.

The poor housing condition of facing cold while remaining in cold environment is experienced due to presence of low income among family members which makes them incapable to afford the electricity to heat their homes (Ploskić and Wang, 2018). Thus, the lack of heat leads individuals to live in continuous cold environment which affects the people living in the condition to develop fever, influenza and others. This is because many viruses can thrive in cold and moist environment which are responsible for causing flu and symptoms of influenza (O'Sullivan et al., 2016). The children and babies in the cold environment feel hindrance to breathe properly and develop increased body temperature which creates negative impact on their health. This is because in cold dry environment, the airways get constricted which causes difficulty in breathing along with wheezing, coughing and others (O'Sullivan et al., 2016).

In poor housing condition, the damp and mould are key issues being faced and they are seen to cause negative health impact on individuals. The buildings which have leakage in pipes leads to support rise of damped basement out of continuous leakage of water that in turn creates a favourable for the growth of moulds in the housing condition. This is because moulds are seen to grow effectively in moist environments (Ingham et al., 2019). The people living in damp and mould homes have been linked to respiratory infections such as allergies or asthma and shows negative impact on their immune system. However, people who live in proper houses show no such health complication such as respiratory problems and others (Norbäck, 2020). This is because the spores from the moulds developed in damp area enter the lungs of the people living in such places which causes irritation and damage to the airways leading individuals to show symptoms of asthma and chest infection (Ginestet et al., 2020).

In poor housing, the presence of cold housing environment also negatively affects the individuals to develop cardiovascular diseases apart from respiratory issues. This is because in cold environment the blood vessels remain constricted thus creating increased pressure on the heart to pump blood to other organs and brains. During this phase, the person may develop stroke as adequate amount of blood required by the body for effective functioning may not be transmitted effectively out of troubled working of the heart due to fall in surrounding temperature (Norbäck, 2020). The poor housing condition where pests are present is seen to create negative health condition for the individuals living in such environment. This is because pests such as cockroaches, dust mites and others are considered to be carrier of harmful diseases and allergens which causes negative health and well-being of people (Norbäck et al., 2017). For instance, cockroaches carry and spread Salmonella that causes serious illness among adults (Norbäck et al., 2017). Thus, it can be seen that poor housing condition create various negative impacts on the health of individuals.

Overview of Homelessness and its impact on health and crime

Homelessness is the living conditions in which individuals are unable afford housing for living space and they spend their livelihood on the streets and footpaths. The people who live and move between temporary shelters that include moving from house f relatives, in private boarding houses that lack private bathroom or security for certain tenure are considered to the homeless (Ravenhill, 2016). In the UK, it is reported that 320,000 people are homeless and more than thousands more are at risk of facing homelessness. According to these figures, 1 in 200 people in the Uk can be considered currently to face homelessness (england.shelter.org.uk, 2018). The highest number of homeless population is present in Newham (1in 24 people are homeless) which is followed by Haringey and Keininsinghton and Chelsea (1 in 29 people are homeless) (england.shelter.org.uk, 2018). The statistics inform that in the UK increased numbers of people are facing homelessness and active support is required to resolve the condition. However, effective knowledge of factors responsible for homelessness and way it is affecting health and social life are to be determined so that seriousness of the situation can be reflected.

There are various individual and structural factors that lead individuals to face homelessness. As mentioned by Bramley and Fitzpatrick (2018), lack of affordable housing in the UK leads the poor individual with lower status in the society to face homelessness. This is because they lack enough finances to afford homes or living space for personal use as the use the existing finances to avail other basic needs such as food, shelter, clothing and others. As argued by Paudyal and Saunders (2018), decline in the availability of social housing in proportion to other housing has led to homelessness. This is because many individuals are unable to buy private housing and estates making them unable to have living space. The increased amount of mortgage required along with first-time investment need for buying houses is often unable to be arranged under the low income by individuals in the UK (Bramley and Fitzpatrick, 2018). Thus, these factors have led to increased homelessness in the country.

The increased fragmentation of families has led to create increased demand for housing than the amount of existing houses and space available for living. This, in turn, has contributed to the cause of homelessness in countries (Fitzpatrick et al., 2016). The lack of welfare provision for the poor and unfavourable market condition leads to less availability of finances to buy houses, in turn, creating sharp rise in homelessness condition (Fitzpatrick et al., 2016). As argued by Iheanacho et al. (2018), substance addiction acts as individual factor that contributes to homelessness. This is because addiction leads individuals to sell their houses in need of money to meet their abusive substance requirements. The mental illness and lack of effective care system also contribute to homelessness of innocent individuals. This is because mentally-ill people are unable to understand the norms of housing and often due to their health condition are abused by others and family member to forcefully leave their homes causing the homelessness condition to be worsened (Moulin et al., 2018). Moreover, lack of effective therapeutic intervention for mentally-ill people makes them incapable to have supportive alternative housing facilities as they do not qualify for the rules to be followed to accessing the service, in turn, making them homeless (Kramer and Hsieh, 2019).

The people discharged from prison are often found to be homeless. This is because the individuals are considered as criminal in society and people avoid providing them living spaces under the fear of harm from them. Moreover, people discharged from prison has lack of enough monetary support to avail homes, in turn, making them homeless and worsening the situation (Schneider, 2018). The domestic violence acts as individual factor that contributes to homelessness of individuals. This is because domestic violence leads individuals leave their original homes out of fear of harm by partners or family members, in turn, making them are forcefully live on street due to lack of any effective support to protect themselves from abuse while staying in home (Mayock et al., 2016).

The homelessness condition is seen to create impact on mental and physical health of the individuals as well as often makes them get involved in criminal and illegal acts. It is evident from the study of Baur and Cerveny (2019) where it is mentioned that homeless people often involve in criminal activities to avail money for meeting their basic needs and arranging finances to avail homes. This is because most homeless people are unemployed and live under poverty where they require money to spend their livelihood. As mentioned by Davies and Allen (2017), homeless people are often seen to be victims of physical and sexual abuse. This is because unlikely the house people, the homeless individual lack effective protection and safe environment for living which exposes them to easily become victims of violence and spousal attacks. As argued by Shah et al. (2017), homeless people are often seen to be involved in substance abuse and use of illicit drugs. This is because the individuals by use of substance abuse and drugs try to overcome their mental trauma and negative emotions faced out of unstable living condition. It is evident as illicit drugs and substances are seen to have chemicals that affect the brain to have less emotional pain along with lower stress and anxiety (Davies and Allen, 2017).

In the UK, to manage negative health consequences and avoid involvement of homeless people in criminal activities few legal policies are being created. The Homelessness Reduction Act 2017 provides provision that it is duty of local authorities to prevent and relieve homelessness. They are required to assess and develop personalized housing plan so that all the homeless people in the locality can be able to gradually avail permanent homes for living. The Act mentions making local authorities refer people those are homeless and in need of immediate support for housing (legislation.gov.uk, 2017). Thus, the policy is effective to arrange housing for the homeless people in need who in priority require housing support for their condition.

The Homelessness Reduction Act 2017 would be effective in taking initial steps towards making homeless people avoid substance abuse and lead healthy lives. This is evident as head of Advisory Council on Misuse of Drugs mentions that homeless people due to lack of housing feel hindered social connectedness and personal safety along with stress and anxiety which leads them to develop substance abuse. Thus, their arrangement of accommodation for homeless people is first step that helps to relieve them from anxiety and stress regarding unavailability of supportive and safe living place to lead their life (legislation.gov.uk, 2017). Moreover, availability of accommodation for the homeless people leads them to avoid living in unhygienic environment which in turn helps to enhance their health (legislation.gov.uk, 2017).

The Care Act 2014 mentions the local organizations must support homeless adult in managing their everyday chores such as washing, dressing, cooking meals, eating and others. Moreover, authorities have the role to emotionally support homeless adults taking care of any family member (legislation.gov.uk, 2014). These actions are effective to lower mental trauma faced out of non-supportive living environment among the homeless people. The UK Government has developed employment policy through various organisations such as Shelter England and others for the homeless people to help the individual avail jobs and earn for their livelihood (homeless.org.uk, 2018; england.shelter.org.uk, 2018). As mentioned by Rosenberg and Kim (2018), employment of the homeless people helps them to improve their financial status and develop sense of encouragement to live a healthy life. This is because employment of the homeless people assists them to earn for their living, in turn, avoiding them to get into criminal activities for availing money for their existence.

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The lack of housing and poor health are interconnected as diseases are detected within the groups of people without proper houses in the communities as compares to those lives in better houses with basic water, electricity, gas, drainage, sewage system among others. The poor housing condition often leads people to face cardiovascular, respiratory and other diseases. Homelessness is mainly caused due to poverty, lack of living space availability, financial support and others. The poor living condition of the homeless individuals leads them to get involved in criminal activity, substance abuse and others. The rehabilitation of the homeless people along with their effective employment can resolve some of the raised issues.

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