ACTION to tackle the health effects of poor housing in Wales could bring a return on investment in just six years, saving the NHS in Wales many millions of pounds a year, a new report concludes.

Poor quality housing costs more than £95m per year in treatments in Wales - for problems such as falls, asthma and other respiratory difficulties due to damp and cold, and mental health issues - according to the report, titled Making a Difference - Housing and Health: A Case for Investment.

With more than one-in-six (18 per cent) homes in Wales posing an unacceptable risk to health, no part of the country is free from the health issues that can arise, and poor housing is estimated to cost Welsh society more than £1 billion a year.

In Gwent, Newport, Torfaen and Blaenau Gwent have housing considered to be among the top 10 per cent most deprived in Wales, based on Welsh Government housing deprivation measures that include overcrowded households and households with no central heating.

The report - the result of a partnership between Public Health Wales, Community Housing Cymru, and the Building Research Establishment (BRE).

Much work is being done

- notably by



housing organisations

- to improve homes, and the report lays out what the benefits of such improvement programmes can be:

  • Upgrading homes could lead to 39 per cent fewer hospital admissions for circulation and lung conditions;
  • Every £1 spent on improving warmth in vulnerable households could result in a £4 return on investment;
  • Adapting homes and providing services to reduce falls for older and disabled people are value-for-money and could generate £7.50 in savings to health and social care services for every £1 spent.

It makes a series of recommendations to address causes of ill-health associated with poor quality housing, such as cold and damp, and fall hazards. Priority areas include improving the heating, thermal efficiency and ventilation of homes, with action such as insulating older houses.

South Wales Argus:

(Fuel poverty is among the issues that can contribute to housing-related ill health)

Further, creating better ventilation also has benefits including improving asthma in children, and is likely to reduce school absence.

The report also highlights that investing in action to prevent homelessness also leads to a significant savings, while cutting the human cost, and could result in savings of around £9,266 per person compared to allowing homelessness to persist for 12 months.

Every £1 invested in lifting people out of homelessness could lead to a £2.80 return on investment, it concludes.

“Wales has the oldest housing stock in the UK, and proportionately the highest treatment costs associated with poor housing," said Louise Woodfine, principal public health specialist and housing lead for Public Health Wales.

"The case for investing in housing to improve health and wellbeing has never been stronger.

“There is a real human cost to poor housing too, with people living in the least energy efficient homes being a fifth more likely to die during winter than householders in the warmest properties.

“However, this means that there are real opportunities for us in Wales to make significant improvements to health and well-being by taking priority action in the housing sector.

“Our report finds that action now to improve housing quality, ensure suitable housing, and to address homelessness are most cost-effective.

This needs to be supported by action to reduce housing inequality, and more closely align housing, health and social care.”

Stuart Ropke, chief executive at Community Housing Cymru, the membership body for Wales' housing associations, said the long term issue is to have good housing as a basic right for everyone.

“This report clearly demonstrates the direct impact that poor housing has on the NHS, and we will continue to work alongside Public Health Wales to make sure that investment in housing is a priority,” he said.