Investing in housing improvements among minority ethnic households could lower financial burden for NHS

Posted on Tue 4 Feb 2014

 Investing in housing improvements among minority ethnic households could lower financial burden for NHS
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A new study by BRE and the Race Equality Foundation concludes that investing in housing improvements among minority ethnic households in England could have a significant positive impact on health and wellbeing, and mean a lower financial burden for the NHS and society as a whole.

Set against a range of statistics, the report includes a profile of housing occupied by minority ethnic households and white households. It notes in particular that England's 2.2 million minority ethnic households are more likely to rent and live in flats, and about a quarter are living in the oldest pre 1919-built homes, which more probably featured poorer housing.

Using the Housing Health and Safety Rating System (HHSRS) and NHS data on the outcomes of housing hazards, the paper provides a first time quantification of the cost of poor housing among minority ethnic households both to the NHS and wider society.

A risk assessment of 26 health and safety hazards found that around 15% of minority ethnic households lived in a home with at least one Category 1 HHSRS hazard, which the paper classifies as poor housing. Notably, in private sector homes, 18% lived with a serious health and safety hazard compared to 8% in public sector homes. The total annual treatments as a result of these hazards are estimated to cost the NHS around £52 million per year.

Jabeer Butt, OBE, Deputy Chief Executive of the Race Equality Foundation said ‘ If we take into account other factors such as consequent reduced educational achievement, lost income, higher insurance premiums and higher policing and emergency services, the full cost to society is estimated to be some £129 million per year – this is very significant and something we need to address’

Ultimately, the paper highlights that investment in housing not only improves people’s health and life chances but also makes sound economic sense by saving public money in the long term. Citing the example of BRE's Housing Health Cost Calculator as a tool for calculating how much can be saved through improvements, the research demonstrates how investment in poor housing both enhances the lives of minority ethnic households and saves on the costs of NHS treatment for illnesses and injuries, often within a relatively short period. It shows that simple home safety improvements, such as handrails on dangerous stairs and steps and better home security, are very cost-effective. Equally, basic energy efficiency improvements to the home of a fuel-poor household can pay back in saved NHS treatment costs alone within 7 years and will continue to accrue benefits into the future.

Published at our Health and Housing event on January 30th, the paper is based on a 2009 – 2011* survey of around 22,000 households nationwide. The paper is available to download from the Better Housing website.

For further information please contact Kat Clayton.


* The 2009 – 2011 English Housing Survey (EHS) surveys used for this analysis collected house condition data on some 22,258 households nationwide, and was combined and re-weighted to reflect the total number of households at the mid-point, 2010.

Race Equality Foundation