Yorkshire has the highest proportion of non-decent homes in the UK, new research shows, with 20.9 per cent of homes in the region not in a reasonable state of repair, without modern facilities or without adequate heating.
This was a particular problem among older people who are less physically able to carry out repairs, more likely to live alone and in larger homes that require more upkeep.
A lack of government funding is being blamed for homes falling into disrepair, as many older people are living below the breadline and cannot afford to fix hazardous homes.
The average cost to bring a non-decent home up to a decent standard is estimated to be under £3,000, and a third of these homes could be repaired for less than £1,000, the Centre for Ageing Better said.
Across England more than two million homes are potentially dangerous, with the research showing more than 4.3 million homes in England do not meet basic standards of decency, most commonly because of the presence of a serious hazard to their occupants’ health or safety.
The largest number of non-decent homes is among owner-occupiers, the report found, with many facing financial or practical barriers to maintaining their home. Meanwhile 20 per cent of all homes in the private rented sector are non-decent.
“The result is millions of people living in conditions that put their health or safety at risk - it’s a national scandal.
“But our report also shows that this situation is far from inevitable. And yet the funding that used to be dedicated to addressing this issue has been withdrawn in recent years.
“An investment of £4.3 billion to repair hazards for households over 55 would be paid back in just eight years through savings to the NHS – not to mention the difference this would make to millions of people’s quality of life. Ensuring that everyone is able to live in a safe, decent home now and in the future must be central to the government’s housing policy.”
The NHS spends an estimated £513 million on first-year treatment costs alone for over 55s living in the poorest housing. One of the major causes of death and injury amongst older people are falls in the home, while cold homes exacerbate a range of health problems including arthritis, COPD, and asthma, and increase the risk of an acute episode like a stroke or heart attack.
Sue Adams, Chief Executive at Care & Repair England, said: "Older people across the country tell us how important their homes are to their health and quality of life. Concerted action to make those homes safe, warm, decent places to live is a win-win solution.
“Everyone gains – the NHS cuts costs, the national housing stock is protected and individuals have improved lives."
Duncan Selbie, chief executive at Public Health England, said: “A safe, accessible and warm home helps to enable our participation in society, providing a stable and safe environment for us to flourish.
“In contrast, a cold, hazardous home is a serious risk to a person’s health and can cause or worsen a large number of health conditions such as arthritis, respiratory or mental health illness, as well as increasing the risk of a stroke or heart attack.
“The implications are wide-ranging: from life-changing and potentially fatal consequences for the people living in these conditions to ongoing, avoidable demand on the NHS and other public services.”