This is a significant and very welcome publication.The CIEH historically has been in the vanguard of national efforts to improve housing stock and tenancy condition, not least through its central role in the development of the housing health and safety rating system, whose methodology is used in the Housing Act 2004.
The UK’s housing stock is ageing and policies in the last 20 years have insufficiently addressed replacement, improvement and new housing. The private rented housing sector is expanding and the focus on affordability for many people in the community coupled with security of tenure make housing and health concerns a high priority.
This briefing containing the improved and revised estimates, include in the calculations for the first time both category 1 and 2 hazards and are particularly important. The focus on improved data on excess cold is vital at a time when there have been delays in the publication of regulations under the Energy Act 2011 concerning energy efficiency standards in the private rented sector.
The new information presented in Table 4 places the costs to the NHS of substandard housing into the context of other common health hazards – and suggests that the quality of people’s housing has a similar impact on health as does smoking or alcohol.
The revised estimates give renewed emphasis to our long-held view that some
of the most significant public health gains can be achieved by focusing on the most cost-effective improvements to the poorest housing, usually occupied by the most vulnerable people. We know already that the private rented sector houses
a disproportionate number of the most vulnerable people and has the poorest standard accommodation.
Environmental Health Practitioners play a vital role in addressing poor housing and this new information will help to provide the evidence base to support the value judgements that must be made to support the allocation of public funds to the continuation of this vital work.
Graham Jukes OBE CFCIEH
Chartered Institute of Environmental Health