Wednesday, 13 January 2016

Why having homes fit for human habitation is actually important

It has been reported that an amendment to the Housing Bill which would have required homes to be fit for human habitation has been defeated by the Conservatives (Ayes: 219, Nos: 312; the only non-Conservative MPs to vote against were UKIP's Douglas Carswell and the UUP's Danny Kinahan and Tom Elliott); 73 Conservative MPs who voted against the amendment are landlords who would be affected by this legislation. This amendment would update an existing law whose terms have not been updated since 1957, when the limits specified were actually significant sums of money.

This outdated law means that currently homes are only subject to being required to be fit for human habitation if their annual rent is less than £80 in London and £52 elsewhere-but due to the substantial inflation that has happened since 1957, especially during the 1970s, this sum would not even cover rent for a week let alone a year. And London in particular has large numbers of tiny homes barely the size of large cupboards for which extortionate rents are still being charged, and places which are clearly not fit for human habitation especially when overcrowded.

This amendment was moved for good reason: if a home is unfit for human habitation, not only does it mean it is not practical to live there on a daily basis, it also means it could actually be dangerous for people to live there due to damp, lack of a usable fire exit, structural issues with the house or flat etc. Homes also need to be of a minimum size to be liveable as well-we have one of the smallest average house/flat sizes in the world even though we also have considerable numbers of large houses and mansions dotted around.

Safe human habitation is an essential human need-market rents are not a need of any sort.

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