Retrofitting Homes: A Pathway to Enhanced Health and Wellbeing  

In our previous blog, “How Retrofit Can Transform Lives: The Human Impact of Upgrading UK Homes,” we discussed the transformative potential of retrofitting homes. The blog emphasised the role retrofit has in tackling fuel poverty and improving health. Fuel poverty affects over 3 million households, with families struggling to afford to keep their homes warm. A best practice whole-house retrofit can address these issues, making homes warmer, more comfortable, and as a result healthier.  

This blog will further explore the critical importance of retrofitting homes to enhance the health and wellbeing of residents, drawing on research undertaken by the Building Research Establishment (BRE) and highlighted in a recent article: Fixing poor-quality homes could save the NHS and social care £1.5bn a year, research finds 

The Impact of Poor-Quality Housing on Health 

Research by the BRE on behalf of the Centre for Ageing Better highlights the significant cost savings that could be achieved by investing in home improvements. According to the study, fixing the worst quality homes in England could save the NHS and social care budgets over £1.5 billion annually. Excess cold, a common hazard in homes where residents are over 55, costs the NHS £325 million per year. Furthermore, unsafe homes inhabited by individuals over 55 cost the NHS £595 million annually in treatment for injuries or illnesses related to poor housing conditions. 

The Benefits of Retrofitting 

A comprehensive retrofit can make homes warmer and more comfortable by reducing heat loss, improving ventilation, and eliminating cold draughts. These changes lead to better air quality and the eradication of damp and mould issues which are significant contributors to respiratory and other health issues. With reduced energy consumption, fuel bills become more affordable, helping lift people out of fuel poverty. 

Beyond individual benefits, retrofitting homes can have a broader societal impact. Research shows that retrofitting can reduce crime and antisocial behaviour, as people feel happier and less stressed in their homes. Children in healthier home environments can focus better on learning and homework, while adults become more productive at work. Society benefits from a reduced burden on health services and decreased poverty. 

Economic and Environmental Benefits 

Scaling retrofit across the UK’s 28 million existing homes has the potential to significantly improve lives while also reducing carbon emissions. The Construction Leadership Council estimates that a national retrofit programme could create half a million new jobs by 2030 and add over £300 billion to the economy. 

Addressing the Housing Crisis 

Current estimates from the Centre for Ageing Better indicate that eight million people live in dangerous homes, with 2.6 million of these individuals aged 55 and over. Of the 3.7 million English homes classified as non-decent, over half are headed by someone over the age of 55. The Centre for Ageing Better urges the government to develop a national strategy to fix poor-quality homes across all tenure types, backed by sufficient, long-term funding. 

At a local level, the Centre for Ageing Better calls for the establishment of Good Home Hubs. These one-stop shops would address all aspects of home repairs and adaptations, from providing support to find trusted tradespeople and identifying necessary work, to financing repairs and improving energy efficiency. 

Moving Forward – A Call to Action 

As Dr. Carole Easton OBE, chief executive at the Centre for Ageing Better emphasises, poor-quality housing poses a severe risk to health and safety, particularly for older adults. Unsafe, damp, or cold homes exacerbate conditions such as asthma and arthritis and increase the risk of acute episodes like strokes or heart attacks. Investing in home improvement is not just a matter of public health but a value-for-money solution that can alleviate pressure on health and social care sectors. 

Dr. Nicola Brimblecombe, senior researcher at the Care Policy and Evaluation Centre, underscores that improving housing can enhance people’s quality of life, reduce health and care inequalities, and save government funds. The negative effects of poor housing on social care can be long-term, making immediate action to improve housing quality imperative. 

Retrofitting homes is a critical step towards a healthier, more comfortable, and sustainable future for all residents. By prioritising this initiative, we can ensure that everyone has the opportunity to live in a safe, warm, and healthy home, ultimately benefiting individuals, families, and society as a whole. 

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