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  • Author or Editor: Rebecca Tunstall x
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This chapter examines the changes to the housing system 2007/8 to 2015. It shows that the arrival of the Coalition led to major funding cuts, with housing contributing more than its fair share to the overarching Coalition objective of deficit reduction. The exception to these cuts were for spend to support home ownership, and encouragement to provide additional house building. In parallel there was a weakening of the main housing elements of the UK’s welfare “safety net” protection for households in need. This included through saving measures raising social housing rents above traditional “social rent” levels, restricting Housing Benefit paid to low income households, ending the presumption of lifelong security of tenure for social housing tenants, and proposals to extend the right to buy provisions to charitable housing associations. By the end of the period little progress had been seen against the Coalition’s housing policy goals, and some problems had worsened including a marked rise in homelessness, lower supply than demand, worsening affordability, and tenure and spatial polarisation.

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A hundred years ago, when infectious diseases were the principal threat to life expectancy, housing was at the center of public health initiatives in the UK and in other now-high-income countries. Links between poor housing and poor health have continued, despite decades of improvements in average housing conditions and substantial public investment. While the UK has relatively good-quality housing by international standards, polluted air shortens 40,000 lives and costs the National Health Service (NHS) £20bn annually, and housing health and safety risks cost the NHS £1.4bn a year (Nicol et al, 2016). In 2017–18 deaths were 49,000 higher in winter than summer, partly due to cold housing (Office for National Statistics (ONS), 2018). Eight hundred people died sleeping rough in England and Wales in 2019, at a mean age of 46 (ONS, 2020c). Reductions in housing allowances in 2012 caused about 26,000 extra cases of medium-term mental health conditions (Reeves et al, 2016).

Across the world, COVID-19 has returned housing to the forefront of public health. In both high-income nations and those with many crowded informal settlements, it is feared that shared accommodation, overcrowding, and large households have made self-isolation difficult or impossible. Overcrowding and housing insecurity have been associated with higher national cases in high- and medium-income countries (Shadmi et al, 2020; Brown et al, Chapter Ten; Xavier, Chapter Seven). Housing has also been central to lockdown experiences and to potential lockdown harms – to education, physical and mental health, working life, relationships, disposable income, and housing security.

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This chapter looks at UK perspectives in urban policies over the last 30 years and asks whether mixed communities have achieved gentrification by stealth.

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