How does poor housing affect the nations health?
This is the subject of an interesting report I found via the excellent Legal Action Magazine (required reading for all housing professionals) and is from the Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology (POST). You can find it here.
The report, despite being just four pages long, is packed with interesting and worrying data. For example
Poor housing conditions are believed to cost the NHS at least £600 million per year.
Imagine the improvements that could be made if that sort money was made available for grants! It could be combined with initiatives to improve the carbon footprint of properties, which would go towards meeting the governments obligations in that respect also. Unlikely to happen but it would be a great if it did.
Making homes decent
The main standard used is the Decent Homes standard, which was set up quite a few years ago with the baseline conditions acceptable for property to be a home.
The private rented sector (PRS) is now the chief culprit, after the social housing sectors efforts to comply with the Decent Homes Programme (moderately successful). Under 50% of PRS homes are believed to comply which is pretty bad bearing in mind that many experts think the decent homes standard itself is too low.
Inevitably a large proportion of these ‘non decent’ homes are rented to tenants on benefit.
Issues highlighted by the report include:
- Difficulties in communicating and engaging with people in this sector
- Its diverse nature, making it difficult to do anything in a systematic way
- Fears by tenants that they will be evicted if they complain to their landlords
- Reluctance by landlords to invest in their properties or take up initiatives
This is unfortunate because, as the report points out:
While such long-term investments would be challenging in the current economic climate, lack of investment in homes now may result in increased costs in the future. 80% of current housing will still be in use in 2050.
Two of the top problems are
- accidents – 45% of accidents occur in the home and they are in the top 10 causes of death for all ages, and
- cold – which can be particularly dangerous for the elderly
Both these will be picked up by Housing Health and Safety Rating System (HHSRS) inspections, and local authorities must serve improvement notices if they find any category 1 hazards after an inspection.
However due to the cuts, Local Authority have fewer officers available to carry out these inspections, and there is always the problem of ‘moaning minnie’ tenants being kicked out by their charming landlords if they dare to complain.
It is difficult to be anything other than be depressed after reading such a report, although good for POST for publishing it, so that people can be made aware of the problems.
It is hard to see how any improvements can be made in an environment where housing benefit landlords are being asked to make cuts in their rent. However if you have any ideas, please leave a comment.
The report Housing and Health is available online.
Note – the picture is from the front page of the report.