Last edited 07 Dec 2020

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BRE Group Researcher Website

The real cost of poor housing

Author: Simon Nicol. Building Research Establishment, Watford, WD25 9XX, UK.

This paper was entered into a competition launched by --BRE Group and UBM called to investigate the link between buildings and the wellbeing of those who occupy them.


Poor housing = poor health. But can we quantify this, in terms of the money that it is costing the National Health Service to treat housing related health problems? This paper reports on a BRE Trust research project which aims to: identify hazards in the home; measure their impact on the health and safety of the occupants; quantify the costs and benefits of reducing these hazards to an acceptable level. The research is possible because health and safety risk data have become available from the English Housing Survey, which can be combined with treatment cost data from the National Health Service.

The worst housing risk to health in England is a cold home, followed by fall hazards due to the design or condition of the dwelling. Some 4.8 million homes have such hazards and the cost of remedial action is estimated to be some £18bn. If they were all improved immediately, it is estimated that they would save the NHS some £600m per year in direct treatment costs. An output of the research is a ‘calculator’, which is being used by housing authorities to promote effective home improvements to vulnerable people and then measure their cost-benefit.

Key words: = housing, health, vulnerable, cost, benefit

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