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News Update from BRE’s Housing and Health Team – January 2019

North Somerset – Customer Story

To address issues in the private rented sector, North Somerset Council recently adopted a ‘Rent with Confidence’ scheme. A review of housing conditions was carried out in 2017 to identify problematic areas and potential solutions. This combined the findings from BRE housing stock modelling work (for example on the proportion of private rented property estimated to contain a category 1 hazard aggregated to ward level and location of suspected HMOs) with local data on housing complaints and known HMOs. The Council acknowledged a new strategy was required to address the issue, identifying a range of options including reacting to complaints, discretionary licensing, enforcement, co-regulation with landlords, and landlord accreditation. Two options were considered in more detail, an ‘Action Area Approach’ where rental properties belonging to non-accredited landlords would be targeted and robust action taken to secure necessary improvements, and a ‘Selective licensing scheme’. The review recommended an area action approach over selective licensing as it was considered more efficient, flexible and consistent with working in partnership with local landlords, who were supportive.

Following a public consultation exercise on the options, a formal decision to introduce area action alongside promoting ‘Rent with Confidence’ was taken in March 2018. Landlords operating in a designated area of Weston-Super-Mare are being written to and provided with comprehensive information on the relevant standards including a checklist regarding what would be considered an actionable hazard and encouraged to join one of the Rent with Confidence accredited providers. The Council has strict criteria the accreditation providers must adhere to including monitoring management practices of members, property standards and if necessary expulsion from the scheme. A programme of inspections is scheduled to start in March targeting non-accredited private rented properties. If an actionable hazard is identified on inspection, a formal notice will be served when a charge can be levied, typically £300 – £600 and failure to comply is likely to incur a civil penalty too. The Council will be closely monitoring improvements in housing standards.

High-Rise Buildings

On 17 May 2018, the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government wrote to all local authorities directing them to take all appropriate steps to identify and notify the MHCLG of all residential buildings over 18 metres in their area with a view to identifying any action they should take under the Housing Act 2004. For many local authorities this poses a significant challenge, as they will have a significant number of such buildings in their area. Using data from Ordnance Survey we can identify buildings that may be over 18 metres in height. We can then combine this with data from our stock models to predict where there may be dwellings with hazards, providing local authorities with a powerful data source that can help them direct their enforcement action and comply with the direction from the Secretary of State.

SAP 25th Anniversary

On Tuesday 11 September, BRE hosted a 25th anniversary celebration for the first Standard Assessment Procedure (SAP) publication. SAP evolved from work in the 1970s and 80s which looked at ways to reduce the UK’s energy consumption. In the early 1980s this resulted in a model known as BREDEM which was a method to estimate home energy consumption and how to reduce it. This underpinned the government’s implementation of the “SAP rating” and subsequently the very familiar A to G EPC bands. Over the last 25 years, BRE has continuously updated SAP, based on the latest research and progress in technology.”

Digital Detectives – Team Contribution

As part of the Government’s commitment to the digital economy, HM Land Registry made its data on land ownership in England and Wales publicly available last year. Nearly four million records from the Commercial and Corporate Ownership and Overseas Companies Ownership datasets became accessible for exploration, identifying the address, company name, price paid and country of incorporation, along with other useful information. Having purchased some complex geodata, BRE’s team of analysts have created programmes that convert the land titles to an address-based property ownership database, revealing the ownership of 9.7 million discrete residential addresses by commercial and corporate organisations in England. Undertaking recent housing stock modelling for a north west metropolitan borough council provided the perfect opportunity to assess how the Land Registry data could be used. Read the full article written by Ian Watson, Principal Consultant at BRE, here.

WHCS Headline Findings

The initial findings from the Welsh Housing Conditions Survey (WHCS) have just been published. BRE recruited, trained and managed the team of surveyors who carried out 2,500 surveys in 2017/18, before analysing the findings and reporting to the Welsh Government. The key messages include:

  • Since the last survey in 2008 housing conditions across all tenures in Wales have improved.
  • Wales has the oldest housing stock in the UK, with a similar spread of housing types.
  • Compared with England (12% in 2016), Wales has higher rates of category 1 hazards (18%).
  • The proportion of dwellings in the private rented sector has increased considerably since 1986.
  • The private rented sector generally has the oldest housing stock and a higher proportion of poor quality housing (e.g. containing damp or other hazards).
  • Social housing is generally of better quality than private housing (both owner occupied and private rented); as are newer houses.
  • The average energy efficiency band has improved from Band E in 2008 to Band D in 2017-18.

More information is available on the Welsh Government website.

White Paper: The Cost of Unhealthy Homes

Houses and buildings that cause health conditions cost the economy and our society each year. It is very important continuing to strive for energy efficient homes that reduce carbon emissions and energy bills, as well as ensuring that we are reducing the health cost too. The All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for Healthy Homes and Buildings provides a public health focus that considers the indoor environment as much as the external environment, it explains that most people spend 90% of their time indoors. The APPG White Paper, published in October 2018, (“Building Our Future: Laying the Foundations for Healthy Homes and Buildings”, available at, makes it clear that “Finding health and wellbeing issues in UK homes and buildings, can give us an opportunity to create and use buildings to promote positive health and wellbeing. It is an opportunity to make savings in healthcare costs, increase educational attainment, improve productivity and allow our citizens to lead longer, healthier and happier lives.”

Environmental Health and Housing Issues for Public Health, Ian Watson

Ian Watson, Principal Consultant within the Housing and Health team at BRE, has recently contributed to the second edition of Environmental Health and Housing book. The book highlights the recent issues in public health, with a focus on population health, health protection and improvement, inter-agency approaches and a greater emphasis on wider living environments. The book can be bought online from the publishers here (Book reference: Stewart, J., Lynch, Z., 2018. Environmental Health and Housing Issues for Public Health, 2nd Edition. Routledge. ISBN: 9781138090125).

“Under One Roof”

Earlier this year, National Energy Action (NEA) published their “Under One Roof” report which looks at evidence for the benefits of health bodies working in partnership with schemes to reduce fuel poverty. The report provides many examples of best practice joint working, research into areas such as funding sources for schemes and ultimately makes recommendations to enable a joint approach to investment and replication of the current best practice across the UK. For the full report see:

Recently Published Articles

“The Evolving Private Rented Sector: Its Contribution and Potential” Dr Julie Rugg and David Rhodes at the University of York, 2018

“Government response to the Housing, Communities and Local Government Select Committee Report: Private rented sector”, July 2018

Useful Events and Training

Making the most of HSCD, free webinar – 30th January 2019, 11:30am. Register here

Finally – Keep in Touch

We want to keep you updated on what’s new in the world of housing and health, as well as provide some insight into some of the work our customers have been doing. Please go to our online preference centre and opt-in to receive regular communications from BRE – if you select to receive the monthly BRE e-news we will include a quarterly reminder for the publication of this news update on BRE Buzz. Additionally, if you have specific queries please e-mail us at HousingAnd[email protected] and for more information on our services go to