NuGen Properties

Cold homes cost NHS £540m a year

BRE’s analysis of the latest English Housing Survey data shows that 700,000 homes are officially assessed as excessively cold.

BRE states that the NHS spends £540m per year treating people impacted by excess cold.

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

The research is contained in a BRE publications, The cost of poor housing by tenure in England, which follows its 2021 analysis on the overall cost of substandard housing to the NHS. For the first time, BRE’s research provides a breakdown of the impact of poor housing on the NHS in each of the owner occupied, privately rented, and socially rented sectors.

Of the 2.4mn homes in England which BRE identified as having a category 1 hazard (a serious and immediate risk to a person’s health and safety), there more than 700,000 homes that are assessed as excessively cold.

Of these, more than 500,000 are owner-occupied, 200,000 are privately rented 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 rented sector.

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

BRE chief executive Gillian Charlesworth said: “Today’s analysis reminds us just how much of an impact poorly insulated and inadequately heated homes are having on residents and our public services, particularly in the poorest quality 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 meeting our net zero ambitions. When local and national government know where the most problematic homes are from data like these, they can design targeted programmes to improve them. 

“But these results are the tip of the iceberg. These are only the direct costs to the NHS of treating health problems from the very least energy efficient homes. With the current energy price crisis, families living in a much wider group of homes will be struggling to heat their homes this winter and so even more people are likely to face health problems as a result. This leaves them unable to work, and potentially having to remain in hospital for a long time if their home isn’t safe to return to, meaning that the impact on the wider economy is even greater.”

BRE has added its voice to those building industry vested interests calling for a strategic housing retrofit programme with financial incentives for property owners. 

Gillian Charlesworth added: “It’s clear from our research that there are major benefits to be reaped from improving the efficiency of England’s homes, particularly as households are set to lose government support with record energy prices from April and public services face significant pressure. However, while progress is being made in this area with new funding being allocated to home insulation, we still have a long way to go.

“Strategic retrofit programmes are critical to improving the energy efficiency and safety of a property. 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 on the cost of all poor housing to the NHS and wider society later this year.

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