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The Chartered Institute of Housing is the independent voice for housing and the home of professional standards

Action needed on human and financial costs of poor housing


The Presidents of the CIH and CIEH urge action to address the human and financial costs of poor housing.

"The Marmot Review (Fair Society, Healthy Lives) and the Building Research Establishment (BRE) report on the real cost of poor housing published this week show that even though we live in an adverse economic climate we must take this opportunity to plan on how to do things differently" said CIEH President Stephen Battersby after a meeting with CIH President Howard Farrand.

Housing is a key determinant of health, and with an ageing population (the pensionable age is also moving towards 68) we have to do more to ensure that we have a healthy population and reduce the effects of poor housing on NHS costs", said Mr Farrand. "Action is also required so as to reduce the adverse effects on children and their education from inadequate housing" he said.

"One key policy objective from Marmot was the creation and development of healthy and sustainable places and communities and in this area the two Institutes will work together." said Dr Battersby. "As the BRE report has shown more than four million seriously unhealthy homes exist in the private sector and these cost the NHS £600 million a year and society as a whole £1.5billion."

Mr Farrand said "We will be urging central and local government and the third sector to take on board these reports and raise the priority given to improving conditions in homes and local environments (building on the Total Place approach). We know what can be achieved from our experience with the Decent Homes Programme. We can build on this experience and expertise to further reduce the impact of housing on health inequalities across tenures". He continued "local authorities have a wide range of powers that enable them to take action, I hope that they will use these and work increasingly with Primary Care Trusts and others to address the problems."

"At a time when resources in the public sector will be restricted it is important that all possible sources of funding are used as efficiently as possible with resources shared (including within communities) to better address the impact of poor housing on health and help reduce the health gradient" concluded Dr Battersby.

Notes for editors:

Fair Society, Healthy Lives – The Marmot Review

The Real Cost of Poor Housing is available from IHS BRE Press from (reference FB 23).reported that 4.8 million homes in England (22%) have what are called category 1 hazards arising from defects as assessed using the Housing Health and Safety Rating System. Such hazards can lead to serious health risks such as cardio-respiratory disease, stroke asthma even death for example from excess cold and fall. More than four and a quarter million of these homes are in the private sector, owner occupied or rented. Such hazards, it is estimated, cost the NHS £600 million per year but there are additional costs to occupants and to society from loss of earnings for example, which add up to £1.5 billion per year. Yet the average cost to remedy these hazards per home is about £4,000 (there is considerable variation).

This report:

- demonstrates the relationship between hazards in the home, health and the costs of poor housing

- analyses the risks derived from key hazards and the costs to the NHS of tackling these

- develops a cost-benefit model for analysing costs of unsafe and unhealthy housing

- provides a valuable resource for housing and health professionals and policy makers.

- In a Parliamentary debate the cost of just a hip replacement on the NHS was said to be about £4,500 and is up to twice that in the private sector. (Hansard 7 Jul 2003 : Column 771).

- The Housing Health and Safety Rating System (HHSRS) is a protocol introduced in 2006 and is a means of identifying defects in dwellings and of evaluating the potential effect of any defects on the health and safety of occupants, visitors, neighbours and passers-by. The system provides a means of rating the seriousness of any hazard, so that it is possible to differentiate between minor hazards and those where there is an imminent threat of major harm or even death. The emphasis is placed on the potential effect of any defects on the health and safety of occupants and visitors, particularly people in the vulnerable age groups most usually the elderly or young children, and takes account of the probability of an occurrence and the potential health outcomes when exposed to the hazard. Altogether 29 hazards are included.

- The Chartered Institute of Environmental Health (CIEH) is the professional voice for environmental health. It ensures the highest standards of professional competence in its members, in the belief that through environmental health action people's health can be improved. The CIEH represents over 10,000 members working in the public, private and non-profit sectors. For more information about the CIEH

- For further information please contact James Davis on 0207 827 6303 / 07710 746210 or email  or Andrew Hamadanian on 0207 827 5922.

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