Housing stock improvements needed to tackle ill health and health inequalities.
Miles Briggs, Scottish Conservative & Unionist MSP for Lothian, today at Holyrood emphasised the need to improve Scotland’s housing stock in order to tackle ill health and reduce health inequalities. Miles was speaking in a Conservative led debate in Parliament on housing.
Speaking today Miles said:
“ Housing can have a number of direct and indirect effects on both physical and mental health and is a significant driver of health inequalities.
“ Poorly insulated homes that are difficult to heat push people into fuel poverty. Cold houses and flats impact disproportionately on the less well off, elderly, disabled and infirm. The stress of struggling to heat your home can create or exacerbate mental health conditions. Almost a fifth of households state that their heating keeps them warm in winter “only sometimes”. The latest Scottish House Condition survey indicates only 37% of houses were in the energy performance certificate band C or better. 5% of homes in Scotland remain within the lowest two energy efficiency bands (F and G). While we welcome the Scottish Government’s intent around the Warm Homes Bill, we are clear that it does not go far enough and we will continue to push for a commitment to upgrade the energy efficiency of all properties to EPC C rating or above by the end of the next decade. This would of course reduce carbon emissions as well as household heating bills.
“ It is of real concern that so many Scots are living in cold and damp homes given the effect this has on many conditions, notably respiratory illnesses like asthma. Some studies suggest those living in damp homes may be as much as 40% more likely to suffer from asthma compared to those living in better accommodation, while those living in dark, poorly-ventilated homes are 27 per cent more likely to report poor health conditions including asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. In its submission to the health committee’s recent inquiry into the preventative agenda, the British Lung Foundation Scotland identified damp housing as a key challenge and noted the growing body of evidence highlighting the negative impact of mould and fungus from damp homes on lung health, as well as complimentary research showing that dry homes can improve lung health.
“ The costs to our NHS of dealing with the consequences of respiratory and other conditions caused or made worse by damp, poorly ventilated housing are significant so investment in improving the housing stock must be an important element of the preventative agenda.
“ Overcrowding is another issue to which we must give attention. Around 3% of households or some 70,000, are thought to be living in overcrowded accommodation. This can have a real impact on mental health in particular and is also a factor in the poorer educational outcomes among children living in overcrowded accommodation. The proposals we have set out on increasing the number of new homes being built in Scotland with a new national housing and infrastructure agency and a Cabinet Secretary for Housing and Infrastructure to drive forward the delivery of housing would make a real difference in tackling overcrowding. Refurbishing the 34,000 empty homes in Scotland as part of a Help to Rebuild programme should also be a priority.”