Tackling cold and damp housing is important. It has an association with a range of health conditions, from common colds and asthma through to respiratory and heart conditions that can lead to an early death. Cold and damp homes are also associated with poor mental health and poor social and economic outcomes as well as fuel poverty (you can find out more here).
The Health Conditions Associated With Condensation, Damp and Mould
Although less significant statistically in health terms, spores of many moulds and fungi including timber attacking fungi can cause allergic reactions. The spores can also be carcinogenic, toxic and cause infections; the potential health effects varying with species. Fungal conditions, whilst not common, are usually associated with those vulnerable to infection (such as those on immunosuppressant drugs). Some fungi, particularly when in very high concentrations, can also colonise the airways of susceptible individuals, particularly asthmatics. Toxins from some moulds (mycotoxins) can cause nausea and diarrhoea, can suppress the immune system and have been implicated in a number of different forms of cancer. Although uncommon, these effects are serious if they occur.
Additionally, the mental and social health effects of dampness and mould should not be underestimated. Damage to a home’s decoration from mould or damp staining and the smells associated with damp and mould have been linked with depression and anxiety. Feelings of shame and embarrassment can lead to social isolation.
This has a particularly strong effect on affordable housing
There is a significant social gradient in fuel poverty: the lower your income the more likely you are to be at risk of fuel poverty - putting you at further risk of social and health inequalities. There is strong evidence on the mental health and wellbeing impacts of fuel poverty and cold homes and the significant benefits to mental wellbeing from tackling fuel poverty.
Humans create on average at least 4 pints of moisture per day just by breathing, cooking, bathing, washing and drying clothes - normal everyday activities that everyone performs at home. When temperatures drop, the air can no longer hold onto all the moisture generated; it will migrate to the coldest parts of the house and condense onto the windows and walls. An issue often exacerbated by over-occupancy, a common issue found within the housing sector. Resident behaviour change is the key to tackling damp and mould in homes, however, other factors associated with the building fabric must also be considered. For example, the adequate use of ventilation and heating, the current building fabric condition, as well as the performance of a properties insulation, are all factors associated with condensation, damp and mould. When a property's relative humidity levels reach 70%, mould will start to form. These are also, however, ideal conditions for dust mites - both of which are known triggers of asthma and allergies. This is why problems occur during the winter rather than the summer.
How HACT can help quantify a housing provider’s social value generation
The housing sector as a whole is increasingly adopting and standardising the HACT social value bank. It has been designed to ensure robust and accurate calculation of the social value generated through community impact initiatives, training, employment and community and housing regeneration. Their values are built upon government-endorsed methodologies and recognised throughout the sector.
HACT have done significant work in quantifying the value generated through the removal of condensation, damp and mould. HACT has identified and monetised the personal impact on one’s health and well-being in terms of the rectification of serious condensation, damp and mould growth. They have included values ranging from £770 to £1232 per person per household as monetary values attributed to the individual’s enhancement to wellbeing. They have also monetised the impact of enhancing the EPC banding on an individual’s health and well-being - generating values ranging from £228 to £2088 per person per household as monetary values. Finally, HACT have also monetised the impact of relief from depression/anxiety at £11,819 - a condition often associated with fuel poor households.
What does this all mean?
Their social value calculator can be used to understand the significant value generated through relatively small changes. Rarely does a housing provider need to justify the social value of providing more homes, but they might need to understand the value generated by installing new doors. Switchee has worked with HACT, for example, to establish the social value generated through the installation of our product. A medium-sized housing provider in the Midlands has seen a major impact on their Social Return on investment with an expected £74m of social value created across their 15,500 gas properties through Switchee. This figure is derived from the just the social value associated with the rectification of condensation, damp and mould, and Switchee enabling residents to obtain advice locally through having the messaging and advice functionality. Social value can add up when multiple small changes are combined together.
As housing providers continue to look for new ways to measure their impact on communities - calculators like the HACT social value calculator can help to make justifying additional investment in property infrastructure easier. The Social Value Bank, created using the Wellbeing Valuation Approach, has been extremely well received by the sector. Many housing associations use it to understand the benefits of activities broadly categorised under the ‘community investment’ banner. But the same approach can be applied to other activities – such as a boiler replacement programme, an activity that they consider core business. In the end, it is for every housing provider to decide how they want to examine their social value, but the HACT calculator provides a good basis to begin with.