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Pandemic highlights need for long term strategies to ensure safe, secure housing for allĀ 

Published: 26 November 2021

A new Health Impact Assessment conducted by Public Health Wales highlights how the Coronavirus pandemic has demonstrated that having a safe, secure home is essential for our health, wellbeing and equity, and what needs to be done to ensure that this is the reality for most people. 

Liz Green, Consultant in Public Health, Policy and International Health at Public Health Wales, said: “The COVID-19 pandemic, and measures to reduce transmission of the virus, has had many wide-ranging impacts on the population of Wales, and has led to many people spending more time in their homes, highlighting the importance of good quality, affordable and secure housing.  

“The need for security in relation to having, and keeping, a home and being surrounded by a safe and consistent home environment, and its impact on both physical and mental health and well-being has long been recognised. During times of uncertainty, such as in the COVID-19 pandemic, a home can provide a secure and stable base for individuals and households in order to help them live and work through and ultimately recover from the pandemic and its effects. 

“National welfare and housing support programmes have been introduced in response to the pandemic and include a wide range of measures to support home owners and tenants and prevent homelessness, but these are now ending. 

“The evidence in this report can assist policy and decision-makers and wider third sector when considering the impact of the pandemic on housing and housing insecurity, so that potential inequalities and negative impacts can be reduced, and future opportunities for positive health and well-being maximised.” 

Key findings of the report are: 

  • The economic impacts of the pandemic have had a negative effect on those on a low-income, women and young people. Reduced income will have caused further hardship for those on a low-income, which could be exacerbated through their precarious living situation. 
  • Private renters are at increased risk of insecure housing due to housing being less affordable during an economic crisis. However, mitigation measures, such as the suspension on evictions and Tenancy Saver Loan scheme provided by Government and other agencies will have helped many. 
  • Some women, children and young people have been at greater risk of harm from violence and abuse or exposure to this, through spending more time at home during the pandemic, and Violence Against Women, Domestic Abuse and Sexual Violence (VAWDASV) has been exacerbated. There is also a lack of refuges where those at risk of VAWDASV can access support (particularly face-to-face support) and safe housing. 
  • The pandemic has highlighted the positive impact of housing and welfare COVID-19 support measures. For example, homelessness prevention schemes have provided temporary accommodation, however some risk becoming homeless again when support measures end. 
  • There has been an increase in neighbourhoods coming together to support one another. However, some individuals and population groups have been affected negatively, such as feeling isolated or being unable to access support. 

Matthew Kennedy from Chartered Institute of Housing, said:  

“This Health Impact Assessment shows the stark and contrasting impact people’s housing circumstances has had on their experiences during the pandemic. It is clear that access to a safe, affordable home where there’s little or no uncertainty about someone’s ability to stay in that home over the longer-term has been a huge factor in helping people cope with the conditions of the pandemic. For those without a home, living in a dangerous homes environment or whose housing circumstances may have already been uncertain - the experience of the pandemic is likely to have magnified issues even further, creating even greater inequality.  

“This work re-enforces the need to have well-resourced, accessible housing support services to directly meet any increases in demand arising from the pandemic. More broadly it elevates the impact that a better understanding of how people feel about their home, and their ongoing housing circumstances could have on people’s well-being and their overall ability to live a desirable quality of life.” 

No place like home? Exploring the health and well-being impact of COVID-19 on housing and housing insecurity Summary Report’ explores the health and well-being impact of Coronavirus on housing and housing insecurity, and looks at the importance of having a consistent home that is of good quality, affordable, and feels safe. It also considers security of tenure in relation to stability, and being able to maintain a roof over one’s head and ultimately prevent homelessness.  It is the third in a series, which focus on the health and equity impact of the Coronavirus pandemic on the population of Wales including the ‘Staying at Home and Social Distancing Policy’ and the impact of home and agile working. This report can be read in conjunction with these and the sections on housing and home working within them.  

The evidence in this report and the previous HIAs carried out, can assist policy and decision-makers when considering the impact of the pandemic on housing and housing insecurity, so that potential inequalities and negative impacts can be reduced, and future opportunities for positive health and well-being maximised.