Housing

One in six young people are living in poor-quality housing and it’s hurting their health

More than two million young people are living in damp or dangerous homes and that’s taking a toll on their health and finances, think tank Resolution Foundation has warned.

young person in housing

Young people are more likely to live in homes that are dangerous for their health. Image: Adrian Swancar / Unsplash

More than two million young people are living in poor-quality housing and it’s hurting their health and hitting their wallets.

Think tank Resolution Foundation issued the warning after data from a YouGov survey revealed one in six people aged between 18 and 34 were living in damp and dangerous homes, amounting to 2.6 million people in the UK.

The proportion of youngsters living in horror homes is triple the rate of people aged 45 and over facing similar issues. Just six per cent of over-45s reported living in poor-quality housing while for over-65s that dropped to just three per cent.

Young people are now facing the dual issue of paying over the odds for poor homes, according to Lalitha Try, economist at the Resolution Foundation.

“The UK is blighted by two housing crises. High housing costs are causing many renters in particular to fall behind on housing payments, while poor-quality housing is leaving millions of people having to deal with damp and malfunctioning heating, plumbing and electrics,” said Try.

“High costs and poor housing quality can make life miserable for people, and can damage both their personal finances and their wider health.

“It is critical that policy makers tackle both of these crises – by building new affordable housing, and improving the quality of the housing stock we already have.”

Resolution Foundation’s Trying Times report – supported by the Health Foundation – found overall one in 10 people – around 6.5 million people – across the UK say that they live in poor-quality housing.

But the problems – including being in a state of disrepair, infested with damp and mould or without heating, electrics or plumbing in good working order – are most likely to impact young people, low-income families and those from ethnic minority backgrounds.

The poorest fifth of households are five times more likely to report living in poor-quality housing than middle or higher-income households.

Meanwhile, people from Pakistani or Bangladeshi backgrounds were most affected by horror homes. More than a third of households from these communities reported living in poor housing followed by a quarter of Black families.

The issue is particularly prevalent in London, which has a higher share of young and ethnic minority residents than the rest of the UK. People living in the English capital are twice as likely to have a serious problem with their home than those living in Scotland.

Researchers found a strong association linking poor-quality housing and poor health in the study.

Those living in horror homes were twice as likely to experience poor health than those living in suitable housing. A fifth of people who had poor housing were affected by health issues compared to one in 10 people in good-quality homes.

Researchers said the health divide can be partially explained by other characteristics that make it more likely to have poor health, citing ethnicity, employment status, income and level of deprivation.

But when these factors were taken into account, it still showed housing impacted on both general and mental health.

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Meanwhile the cost of living crisis is driving up housing costs.

Renters are most likely to report that they have fallen behind on housing costs in the last three months with 15 per cent of social renters and 10 per cent of private renters in this position compared to just four per cent of mortgagors.

However, with over a million mortgage-paying households rolling onto new far more expensive fixed-rate deals over the course of the year, the Resolution Foundation said this picture could change as higher housing costs become a concern for an increasing number of homeowners.

The think tank has urged policymakers to build more affordable homes and boost standards in existing homes to tackle both high costs and poor quality, warning pressures on public services like the NHS could rise.

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Alicia Walker, the head of policy, research and campaigns at youth homelessness charity Centrepoint, said: “After years of underinvestment and the housing crisis playing out how it has, it’s no surprise to hear that so many young people are being forced to live in unsuitable, poor-quality housing and the detrimental impact this is having on their health.

“We know that having affordable, stable and safe housing is crucial for anyone, but it’s even more important for young people, especially those on the lowest incomes. Not having a decent home can hold them back from pursuing education, work and independence, which are all incredibly important in leading meaningful lives.  

“The government needs to act now to not only improve the housing stock we have, but also provide genuinely affordable solutions for young people – otherwise we risk seeing more falling below the breadline or worse, levels of youth homelessness increasing.”

Earlier this week, housing secretary Michael Gove said it was “unacceptable” that renters are being put in the position of facing rent increases or losing their homes.

The government is currently bringing through legislation to improve the standard of social housing with the Social Housing (Regulation) Bill. Ministers have also promised the Renters Reform Bill will improve the standards of private rented homes by introducing minimum standards and giving tenants more power.

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