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The unhealthy cost of poor housing

There has been a long-recognised relationship between poor housing and poor health, but until recently, it has not been possible to estimate the associated cost to society.

A new study has found that 15% of households in London can be classified as living in ‘poor housing’, and that reducing the worst health and safety hazards in these properties could save the NHS around £56m per year in treatment costs for housing related problems, such as respiratory and cardiovascular disease and falls around the home. 

Results of the research show that while there has been significant progress made in improving the energy efficiency of our housing stock, an significant number of households are likely to experience fuel poverty and overcrowding as a result of increasingly high housing costs in London.

BRE housing & energy director Simon Nicol, said:

“The projected £56m annual savings for the NHS could rise to over £140m if other costs relating to living in poor housing such as lack of educational attainment, lost work days and additional energy and insurance costs are taken into account.”

Regionally, the research found that there is proportionately slightly less poor housing in London than in the rest of England. This is predominantly due to the fact that the capital has a higher proportion of homes that are purpose-built flats which tend to be newer, more energy efficient and in better repair than other types of home across the country. However, housing conditions vary considerably both between and within boroughs, and there are parts of the city where conditions are significantly worse than the national and London average.

The new information is said to be already helping local authorities to justify expenditure on housing refurbishment and target the most cost-effective improvements for vulnerable people in unhealthy housing. It also provides a valuable resource for housing managers in the public and private sector, landlords, property owners and health professionals.

Nicol concludes:

“The findings of the research will be used to present a more informed case to government for investment in housing, on the basis that it not only improves people’s health but also saves public money in the long term.”



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