Ms Lindsay Shaw (Ulster): There are social inequality issues relating to low/limited income households being less able to afford a better standard of housing. While there is a ‘Fitness Standard’ (the minimum standard for housing in Northern Ireland), this is recognised as outdated and offers inadequate protection. In England, the fitness standard’ was replaced by the Housing Health and Safety Rating System (HHSRS) in 2006. This HHSRS considers hazards in and around the home, including excess cold and inherent safety hazards which are no considered by the ‘fitness standard’. Currently in Northern Ireland, excess cold would relate to Fuel Poverty with rates in Northern Ireland at 42%, compared with England 15%, and Scotland 25% (2011). Overall the full cost to society of poor housing is £82 million per year. It is estimated that, if all hazards were reduced to a more acceptable level the NHS alone could save £33 million per year. This presentation looks at the Social Housing Allocations Research and Proposals (2013) and the recommendations made in the Building Sound Foundations (A Strategy for the Private Rented Sector, Department of Social Development, 2010) to ascertain the extent to which the ‘fitness standard’ issue has been addressed in Northern Ireland and to look at recommendations for future policy.
This seminar took place on 18th March 2015.