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The health of one in five renters (22%) in England – or 1.9 million households - is being harmed by poor housing, stark new research from Shelter shows.
The charity’s YouGov poll reveals the most common problems plaguing renters’ mental and physical health.
They include damp and mould, which affects 26% of all renters; being unable to heat their home (also affects 26%); constantly struggling to pay rent (21%) and fear of eviction (19%). Renters experiencing any one of these issues are three times more likely than renters without these issues to say their current housing situation is harming their health.
In a separate poll of private renters only, Shelter delved deeper into the impact of housing problems on peoples’ 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.
The findings come as renters are set to head into another challenging winter with soaring fuel costs, the £20 cut to Universal Credit and shorter notice periods for private renters all taking effect. 44% of the people who turned to Shelter’s services for help last year said they were struggling to cope on a daily basis, which points to the intense pressure renters are under.
Shelter’s chief executive, 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.
“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.”