Cold residences cost the NHS £540 million a year

BRE’s analysis of the most recent data from the English Housing Survey shows that 700,000 homes are officially rated as excessively cold.

BRE claims that the NHS spends £540m a year treating people affected by too much cold.

The researchers calculate that it would cost nearly ten times that amount – £5.3 billion – to introduce effective insulation and heating systems into excessively cold homes.

The research is contained in BRE publications, The cost of substandard housing per tenure in England, which follows its 2021 analysis of the overall cost of substandard housing for the NHS. For the first time, the BRE survey provides an analysis of the impact of substandard housing on the NHS across each of the owner-occupied, privately rented and socially rented sectors.

Of the 2.4 million homes in England that BRE has identified as having a Category 1 risk (a serious and immediate risk to a person’s health and safety), there are over 700,000 homes assessed as being excessively cold.

Of these, over 500,000 are owner-occupied, 200,000 are rented to private individuals and 20,000 are social housing, where regulations apply.

BRE calculates that it would cost, on average, £6,690 to remedy excess cold for an owner-occupied property and £6,835 per property in the private let sector.

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A government policy – ​​Minimum Energy Efficiency Standards – is in place to require landlords to improve excessively cold private rental properties. However, owners only need to spend a maximum of £3,500 including VAT to improve their property to the required minimum EPC “E” target. New BRE research shows that £3,500 is enough to bring only 30-40% of excessively cool rented homes to an ‘E’ standard.

BRE Chief Executive Gillian Charlesworth said: “Today’s analysis reminds us of the impact that poorly insulated and inadequately heated homes are having on residents and our utilities, particularly in the poorest properties. Poorly insulated homes have an immediate impact on the health of the people who live in them, as well as being expensive to heat and a barrier to achieving our zero net ambitions. When local and national government know where the most problematic homes are from data like this, they can design targeted programs to improve them.

“But these results are the tip of the iceberg. These are just the direct costs to the NHS of dealing with health problems from less energy efficient households. With the current energy price crisis, families living in a much larger group of households will struggle to heat their homes this winter and therefore even more people are likely to experience health issues. This leaves them unable to work and potentially having to stay in hospital for a long time if their home is not safe to return to, which means the impact on the wider economy is even greater.”

BRE has added its voice to the construction industry’s vested interests calling for a strategic housing modernization program with financial incentives for homeowners.

Gillian Charlesworth added: “It is clear from our research that there are huge benefits to be gained from improving the efficiency of homes in England, particularly as households are likely to lose government support with record energy prices from April and public services face significant pressure. However, although there is progress in this area with the attribution of new funding to house insulation, we still have a long way to go.

“Strategic retrofit programs are key to improving a property’s energy efficiency and security. We need to see a continued and targeted effort to improve England’s poorest homes, for the benefit of individuals, society and our public infrastructure.”

BRE plans to publish a 30-year cost-benefit analysis of the cost of all poor housing to the NHS and wider society later this year.

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