Study exposes poor living conditions of ethnic minorities
Report calls for investment in housing to improve health and potentially save £52m a year
Report from – Jo Smit
England’s 2.2m ethnic minority households are more likely to live in rented accommodation and flats, and about a quarter are living in pre-1919 homes, many of which are in a poor condition. These are among the findings of a new study by BRE and the Race Equality Foundation, published this week. The report concludes that investing in housing improvements among minority ethnic households in England not only has a significant positive impact on health and wellbeing, but also makes economic sense as it reduces financial costs for the NHS and society as a whole.
The report uses English Housing Survey (EHS) data to help create a profile of the types of homes occupied by minority ethnic households and their white counterparts. For the first time, Housing Health and Safety Rating System (HHSRS) information from the EHS and NHS data on the outcomes of housing hazards have been used to quantify the cost of poor housing among ethnic minorities to both to the NHS and wider society.
Any home that had any of the most serious (Category 1) HHSRS hazards was classified by the research as poor housing. The report, The housing conditions of minority ethnic households in England, found that around 15% of minority ethnic households live in poor housing. In private sector homes, 18% live in poor housing compared to 8% in public sector homes. If this is not remedied, the estimated total annual treatment cost to the NHS is around £52m a year.
Jabeer Butt, 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 £129m per year – this is very significant and something we need to address”. Ultimately, the report 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, sometimes 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 cost-effective. In some instances basic energy efficiency improvements to the home of a fuel-poor household can reduce fuel bills and pay back in saved NHS treatment costs. These benefits will continue to accrue into the future.