Housing


Housing 

 Join CIEH Housing Community 

The quality of housing is closely linked to the health and wellbeing of those who live in it, with poor quality housing costing the NHS around £1.4bn and wider society around £18bn per year.

The environmental health profession plays a unique and vital role in assessing housing conditions, especially those in the private rented sector, and taking action to protect and improve the physical and mental wellbeing of tenants and occupiers.

Housing is one of the key social determinants of health and improvements in housing conditions can help to reduce health inequalities. CIEH would like to see housing issues much more closely aligned with the work of public health teams and the NHS via strategic projects in order to reduce the impact of poor housing conditions on health outcomes. CIEH would also like to see housing conditions in all tenures improved and better housing standards introduced, both in terms of physical conditions and the management
of property.

Housing costing 

CIEH priorities 

▼ Housing Standards 

Improving housing conditions in all tenures, especially in the private rented sector 

 Properties_category 

Housing conditions in all tenures, especially the private rented sector, need to be improved as part of a national effort to reduce the impact of poor housing on people’s physical and mental health outcomes. Poor conditions are still widespread across the country, especially in the private rented sector, which still has the highest proportion of non-decent homes and the highest proportion of category 1 hazards compared to other tenures.

Whilst the percentage of non-decent homes in England has fallen in the private rented sector between 2006 and 2014, the actual number of non-decent homes has slightly increased from 1.2m to 1.3m during this period. The reduction in non-decent homes has also been smaller in private rented sector compared to social housing and owner occupied property.

CIEH would like to see: 

  • A national landlord licensing scheme in England, similar to schemes already in place in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, in order to bring greater accountability to landlords and provide additional tools to local enforcement teams.
     
  • A new ambition from the Government to bring all housing up to a minimum housing standard. This should inform policy, have a reportable figure and be defined as a home free of category 1 and high scoring category 2 hazards.
     
  • An update the Housing Health & Safety Rating System (HHSRS) operating and enforcement guidance, including the evidence base on the links between health and housing conditions, updating excess cold sections and updating the definitions of overcrowding and space standards.
     
  • The Government in Northern Ireland (NI) to adopt the HHSRS system for assessing dwellings.
     
  • Priorities aligned between environmental health and the NHS to encourage joint initiatives and a closer working relationship.
     
  • A review of statutory minimum housing regulations to ensure consistency with building and planning regulations.
     

CIEH urges Local Authorities to: 

  • Allocate adequate resources to private sector housing function
     
  • Adopt proactive responses to addressing hazards in the home environment.
     
  • Ensure that appropriate structures and appointments are in place within all council owned and properties managed by registered providers to ensure that tenants have access to a nominated environmental health practitioner who can provide independent expert advice on issues of housing safety.
     
  • Ensure that all high risk buildings in their areas comply with appropriate fire precautions and building regulations, including any recommendations coming out of the Grenfell Tower inquiry.
     
 
▼ Cold Homes 

Reducing the health burden to the NHS and society resulting from excessively cold homes 

 Fuel property 

Living in cold, damp homes impairs the health and wellbeing of householders and is a contributor towards the 25,000 excess winter deaths that occur each year in England. The level of excess winter deaths is 28% higher in the UK than in Sweden, where energy prices are higher and winters longer and more severe. The death rate during periods of cold weather is 3 times higher for those in the coldest 10% of homes, compared to the warmest 10% of homes.

The BEIS Fuel Poverty Statistics published in 2017 report the number of households in fuel poverty has increased from 2.38m in 2014 to 2.50m in 2015, representing approximately 11% of all English households. The rate of fuel poverty in Northern Ireland is 42%. Cold homes and fuel poverty make up a significant proportion of the costs for the NHS and society as a result of poor quality housing.

 Properties_EPC 

CIEH would like to see: 

  • The removal of any loopholes from the Private Rented Sector Energy Efficiency Regulations for domestic properties in England and Wales to ensure these can work well in practice.
     
  • A review of energy efficiency in the private rented sector in Northern Ireland and set incentives to encourage improvements in the sector that will help reduce fuel poverty.
     
  • Minimum energy efficiency standards for Houses in Multiple Occupation
     

CIEH urges LAs and EH teams to: 

  • Continue to target activity on the coldest homes, taking formal action where homes present a cold risk to the occupants.
     
  • Work more closely with the NHS to undertake initiatives to reduce the health burden as a result of excessively cold and excessively hot homes.
     
  • Use the BRE Excess Cold calculator to evidence the health savings made by housing enforcement departments.
     
 
▼ Security and Affordability 

Ensuring that there is adequate access to good quality, secure and genuinely affordable housing 

 Income percentage 


In many parts of England, a shortage of housing has contributed to homes becoming less affordable. In England, the average household living in the private rented sector now spends 35% of their income on rent and 675,000 households from all tenures are living in overcrowded conditions, whilst homelessness has increased by 11% over the past 2 years alone. However, there are also huge differences between local housing markets in the UK. In many areas the housing market is at risk, in decline and suffering from underinvestment.

Unaffordable housing has some significant impacts on health and wellbeing, particularly the mental health for those affected by homelessness or home insecurity. Good health starts at home and the aspiration should be that no one should worry about how they are going to afford or find somewhere to live.

Whilst the Government’s Housing White Paper recognises the need for more affordable homes, its proposals are not ambitious enough to deliver genuinely affordable homes. The proposed affordability cap for new homes is defined as households earning up to £80,000 (or £90,000 in London), yet the average household incomes are significantly below this cap and vary greatly between different areas of the UK. This benchmark of affordability is therefore not fit for purpose for all parts of England, where house prices and wages vary significantly.

The lack of access to affordable housing contributes to tenants’ unwillingness to come forward about poor conditions, due to fear of rent increases and reprisal by the landlord. This is particularly the case with tenants in receipt of housing benefit, who often accept poor housing conditions due to fear of retaliatory eviction or rent increases. 37% of private rented sector properties in England are now occupied by families. In Northern Ireland, over a fifth (22%) of households with children live in the private rented sector. Six-month tenancy agreements force many families into moving home more frequently than they would like and this in turn may be impacting on children’s educational attainment.

CIEH would like to see::   

  • Government investment in genuinely affordable housing and the setting of specific reportable targets for the number of affordable homes to be delivered over the next 5 years, whilst adopting a policy to keep any housing built under this scheme affordable in future years.
     
  • Different approaches and solutions to address housing problems in different parts of the UK. This should include incentivising investment into renovating empty homes and providing grant funding to local areas in order to support renovation of empty homes in deprived areas.
     
  • Review of retaliatory eviction legislation introduced in 2015 to ensure that this legislation works well in practice to protect tenants.
     
  • Review of Sections 8 and 21 of the Housing Act 1988 to improve protection to tenants at risk of retaliatory evictions and to incentivise landlords to use the most appropriate legislation for evictions.
     
  • Introduction of protection from retaliatory eviction in Northern Ireland.
     
  • Introduction of a national metric to measure how many retaliatory evictions are taking place in the UK.
     
  • The option of longer tenancy agreements of up to 5 years after an initial period in a new tenancy for all private rented sector tenants.
     

CIEH encourages local authorities and environmental health teams to: 

  • Take appropriate formal enforcement action on housing issues, in order to protect tenants from retaliatory evictions.
     
 
▼ Information for tenants 

If you are renting from a private landlord and you are experiencing poor housing conditions, your local council environmental health department may be able to help you. Contact details can be found on your council’s website which you can access via the GOV.UK website. If you can’t find an environmental health department, try searching under ‘private sector housing’.

If you are renting from the council, your local council environmental health department will not be able to help you directly, though they may be able to offer you advice on how to get help. For direct help, you should contact your local Citizens Advice Bureau or local Law Centre.

Before contacting any of the above you may find it helpful to read one of the following booklets:

Citizens Advice Bureau. Getting repairs done if you’re renting privately 

Shelter. Landlord and tenant responsibilities for repairs 

You may also find it helpful to look at the ‘Housing Health and Safety Rating System’ section on this page.

Please note that the CIEH cannot provide housing advice to members of the public.

 
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