Housing is very closely linked to health – council officers claim

More awareness is needed around the fact that the quality of people’s houses can have a direct impact on their health, a committee of councillors and health leaders has heard.

By Richard Beecham
Wednesday, 8th December 2021, 11:45 am

A report from Leeds City Council officers was published this week, and claimed data from environmental sensors in people’s homes could also help to monitor the health and wellbeing of its citizens.

One of Leeds’s most senior civil servants added that some people in the city die from health conditions caused by damp housing in the city, and that more can be done about this.

Mandy Sawyer, the council’s head of service in Housing Needs, told Leeds City Council’s health and wellbeing board: “The costs of poor housing to health are significant. It is around £1.4bn per year (in the UK).

A report from Leeds City Council officers was published this week, and claimed data from environmental sensors in people’s homes could also help to monitor the health and wellbeing of its citizens.

“The assessment highlights the implications of poverty on health, and housing is a key feature – there is such a connection between health and wellbeing, and housing.”

According to a report she was presenting to the panel, there was now an increased need to promote healthy lifestyles and reduce health inequalities for those living in rented housing in Leeds.

Issues such as cold and damp can cause health problems, and the report listed as a priority: “Digital solutions to monitor housing conditions and health impacts, e.g., Gov Tech Project (sic), which is using environmental sensors to monitor resident health and wellbeing.”

The report refers to the GovTech Catalyst project, which saw Leeds City Council receive a grant from central government to solve service problems via new technology. The council says it is using this to investigate new tech-driven methods to improve housing maintenance for its council tenants.

The project sees sensors collect data on temperature, humidity, CO2, fire alarm and carbon monoxide events, electricity usage, water leaks and “door and window status events”.

Leeds City Council contracted HomeLINK Ltd and Aware Technologies Ltd – two companies that specialise in data collection technology for social landlords – to carry out the work at the beginning of this year.

The council’s director of public health Victoria Eaton said: “Some of the things we want to link more to health are not the sort of things people will think of at the beginning.

“The bit I think we could really strengthen is making a really clear case between the links between good housing and good health.

“For example, we know we have people who die each winter because their homes are not warm enough, or they are being damp; increased respiratory conditions because of damp housing and child and adult asthma just to name a few of the tangible health conditions.

“I think potentially we can bring that out much more – there is something there about really improving people’s health when we improve their housing.”

Ms Sawyer responded: “It would be really helpful if we can draw some of that out.

“There are so many people who don’t have any affordable warmth or any warmth, and that has to be a priority. We may end up investing more in creating affordable warmth that isn’t necessarily about reducing emissions.”