In a vibrant, modern Scotland it should be possible for everyone to be as healthy as they can be. I’m clear that good quality, sustainable housing for everyone is central to this. That is why on Scottish Housing Day, I’m blogging about housing as a human right.

The right to an adequate standard of housing is inextricably linked to the right to the highest attainable standard of health. We can’t have one without the other. The right to health is an inclusive right. This means that it is not just the health service that should meet these standards, everything that influences our health should be accessible, available, appropriate and high quality if we are to have a healthier Scotland. Whether you are a social housing tenant or live in the private rented sector or are a homeowner, your housing should meet an adequate standard of living that enables health and wellbeing.

Too many households are on social housing waiting lists.  Poor housing conditions, a shortage of accessible homes and unaffordable rent all mean that access to adequate housing is still not the case for everyone in Scotland. It isn’t right that 38 children become homeless in this country every day. These burdens are all taking a toll on physical and mental health, affecting some of our most vulnerable groups. However, whilst there is a clear need for us to work together, across sectors, to do more to improve this situation, there are some opportunities for us to make progress on housing in Scotland. 

In 2017 the Scottish Government committed to building 50,000 affordable homes by 2021, of which 35,000 will be for social rent. In 2017 we also saw the introduction of the new Private Residential Tenancy providing more security of tenure. And, in 2018 the Scottish Government began a national conversation on the Housing Strategy 2040; an ambitious approach to ensuring everyone in Scotland has a home that is warm, affordable and that fits their needs. 

People working across all sectors must seize these opportunities to create good quality, affordable and sustainable housing and improve health and tackle health inequalities.

At NHS Health Scotland, we are taking forward an exciting programme of work which includes exploring how allocating social housing can promote health and wellbeing; increasing awareness of how the housing sector can deliver trauma informed policy and practice; and translating into practice our understanding for how power can impact on health and wellbeing. We are working locally and nationally to do this and to ensure this programme of work influences policy and practice across Scotland.

There is more that needs to be done to ensure that the right to an adequate standard of housing is a reality and, in turn, the people of Scotland are supported to enjoy their right to the highest attainable standard of health.  That is why I’m advocating for housing as a human right. Investing in a housing system which promotes choice and opportunity is an investment in health. 

As part of our commitment to a recognising housing as a human right, NHS Health Scotland has pledged support to Shelter Scotland’s Charter for Change and you will see more on this work in the coming weeks and months.

In the meantime, we hope you will join us in supporting this call to realise the right to housing in Scotland. 

You can read more about what we are doing to maximise the contribution of housing to improving health and tackling health inequalities on our web pages on housing and health inequalities.

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