Mortgages: bad for the nation's health

07 May 2003
The British Medical Association has published a report warning that mortgages can be bad for health.

The BMA's 'Housing and Health: Building for the Future' publication also states that the private sector has the largest proportion of substandard housing in the UK and poses a great risk to the nation's health.

Poor housing has been linked to heart disease and strokes, respiratory problems, asthma, infectious diseases, mental health problems and depression.

The report shows that many people can end up stuck in homes they can't afford to maintain properly.

Dr Vivienne Nathanson, the BMA's Head of Science and Ethics commented, 'Poor housing can cause psychological and physical health problems and the best way to reduce health inequalities in this country is to improve living standards.'

And, she continued, 'we're worried about the spiralling stress levels of people who fear mortgage arrears and debt.'

The BMA believes that mortgage arrears and repossession during difficult financial periods must now be recognised as a major potential public health issue and has urged the government to set up a new Healthy Housing Taskforce to tackle the problem.

For example, during the 1990s recession over one million people had their homes repossessed.

Homeowners are advised to put protection in place to cover any future financial difficulties.

In 1995 the government removed some of the safeguards for mortgage holders, which could increase the impact of another housing market crash.

Under the new rules, anyone who has taken out a homeloan since 1995 will not receive any income support for nine months after being made redundant and even after this period the government will only pay the interest on the loan for the first £100,000 under certain circumstances. People who took out a mortgage before this date can still receive income support after eight weeks.

Those worried about being able to pay their mortgage in the event of illness or redundancy should take out mortgage payment protection insurance (MPPI) and, as rates can vary broadly, should shop around for a competitive rate and suitable policy.

A possible alternative to taking out cover is to build up a pot of savings in a cash ISA that will pay essential bills in the case of redundancy.

Figures show that the average claimant on MPPI policies stops claiming after around five months.