INSIGHTS

The BRE have Highlighted the Unhealthy Housing Problem. We have the Solution.

“With the BRE having highlighted that some 2.4 million UK homes are hazardous to health, the number of homes that adversely impact our well-being is likely to be even higher. Nonetheless, we can prevent many of these issues through health and well-being design tools and frameworks such as the Ekkist Healthy Homes Checklist, the WELL Building Standard, and the BRE’s very own Home Quality Mark (HQM) and create homes that fundamentally support public health and people’s well-being”.

– Olga Turner Baker, Ekkist Founder and Managing Director

The BRE has just released a report entitled “The Cost of Ignoring Poor Housing” to address the current state of English housing stock.

 

The research aimed to estimate the societal costs and benefits of tackling poor housing over the next 30 years and develop a model which can be used to help councils and others to drive action to address unsafe and unhealthy homes. The report highlights a very clear link between the state of housing across the country and the nation’s health – with a focus on the strain on the NHS caused by poor housing. The report aims to encourage discussion and further research into demonstrating the benefits of housing investment to tackle the worst housing conditions.

 

The key insights from the research were as follows:

 

– There are around 2.4 million homes that fall below the minimum standards for housing by having Category 1 health and safety (HHSRS) hazards. While the condition of English housing stock has improved in terms of heating and insulation upgrades since the previous research was undertaken in 2010, 10% of England is still affected.

 

– It is costing the NHS more than £1 billion per year to treat those who affected by poor housing – based on first year treatment costs alone. The figure would likely be much higher if it took into consideration the mental health costs of the suffering related to living in an unsafe and unhealthy home, as well as societal costs relating to care and the loss of economic potential for the victims, family and employers.

 

– Recent data from the English Housing Survey (EHS) indicates that there are some 65,000 Category 1 damp/mouldy homes in England which would cost c. £250 million to make them healthy and safe. But the benefit to society of undertaking this work immediately is estimated to be around £4.8 billion, accrued over the next 30 years in today’s prices.

 

– The research estimates that the cost of remedial work to make the 2.4 million poor homes healthy and safe is around £9 billion and, if all this work were to be undertaken immediately, savings to the NHS would mean the investment would pay back in under 9 years.

 

– The 30 year projection of early intervention to remove all Category 1 hazards would have the potential to save around £136 billion (including £13 billion to the NHS), compared to the existing trend over the same time period.

 

The report is a useful resource for indicating the societal cost implications of dangerous and unhealthy housing that doesn’t even meet minimum standards. It is promising to see that this kind of research is being done to encourage a nationwide evaluation of housing stock. However, it is our view that these figures likely still underestimate the scale of the problem. For example, some of the impacts of certain health hazards in the home have been simplified in the report, such as the physical effects of exposure to damp and mould which are listed as respiratory issues, asthma and mental health problems. In actuality, the health risks of mycotoxin illness from mould exposure can be much more extreme, leading to chronic fatigue syndrome, neurological disorders, the possible development of autoimmune conditions and various cancers. As a result, these conditions may result in premature fatalities or life-long healthcare, which would further increase NHS reliance and costs.

 

Furthermore, when we consider all the ways in which our homes have an impact on our physical and mental health – even if they do meet the minimum building regulations – it is likely that the physical and social implications of unhealthy housing are much greater than we can currently quantify in monetary terms. Aside from the Category 1 hazards outlined in the report, there are a multitude of other ways that our homes can negatively affect our health and well-being, such as the impact of excess noise on cardiovascular health, poor quality daylight and electric lighting on our circadian rhythm, and the use of toxic building materials on our respiratory and endocrine systems. Equally, social aspects are often underestimated as housing issues, such as the harmful impact of chronic loneliness which is so prevalent in many households.

 

Improving the quality of housing is known to have even wider benefits than these in terms of occupant satisfaction, well-being, productivity, a sense of belonging and happiness. This is why we have created The Healthy Homes Checklist. It is a practical tool to help developers design better quality homes by bench marking against over 120 scientifically-supported recommendations to address some of the key health concerns of UK homeowners. The Checklist is not simply about meeting minimum standards, but instead, about consciously prioritising the health of residents when designing homes and, in turn, leveling up the quality of housing across the country.

 

At Ekkist we also support with undertaking third party certifications including the Home Quality Mark (HQM) and WELL Homes to help developers clearly signify their commitment to public health and well-being. Enquire today to find out more about which might be the most fitting approach for your project.