The ability to feel ‘at home’ has a significant impact on people’s health and wellbeing, according to researchers at the University of Stirling.
Looking at a total of 74 tenants living in rented properties in Glasgow, the study identified four key elements essential for a good housing experience: a good relationship with the landlord or housing association, a quality property, support with financial obligations, and a choice of neighbourhood, all of which are said to help a new tenant to feel at home.
Participating tenants were interviewed three times over the first year of their tenancy, answering questions about their housing, health and wellbeing, the local neighbourhood and their financial situation.
The report highlights that the decline of social housing stock in Scotland and the parallel rise of the private rented sector has created a major challenge for those looking for affordable homes.
The proportion of households in the private rented sector has more than doubled since the turn of the century, now said to account for one in six households.
As a result, the study reveals that more low-income and vulnerable households are renting privately, often for many years.
Dr Steve Rolfe, research fellow in housing studies at the University of Stirling, who led the study, said: “Importantly, this is not just about obvious housing problems like homelessness or damp, cold properties, but about how much people feel at home.
“In rented property, our study shows that the behaviour of the landlord or housing organisation is key to whether tenants are able to settle in to a new tenancy. This has a direct correlation to their health and wellbeing.”
The research, which was carried in partnership with Dr Lisa Garnham from the Glasgow Centre for Population Health, also looked at three organisations which specialise in housing people who face a range of barriers when looking for a new home, including low incomes, homelessness or disabilities.
Following the project, the research team developed a series of recommendations with input from policymakers, public health professionals and housing experts.
These included raising greater awareness of the impact housing can have on tenants’ health and wellbeing, improved training for housing organisation staff, and providing a named main contact to tenants.
Dr Rolfe added: “Sometimes it’s the little things that make a difference. Tenants told us how important it was to have a named member of staff to contact, who knew them and understood their circumstances.
“Where housing organisations can provide this personal connection for tenants, it helps them to settle quickly into their new tenancy, feel at home and, therefore, have better health and wellbeing outcomes.”