Graphical representation of a person doing an online presentation.

8 things we learned from the 12th Annual CIEH Housing and Health Conference

Learning points and snippets from the two-day online event.
14 October 2020 , Sarah Campbell

CIEH ran its first major online conference last month: the 12th Annual Housing and Health Conference. Here’s our round-up of the event.

1. About one million additional households may be classified as fuel poor
In the updated Fuel Poverty Strategy that the government intends to publish later this year, the new metric for fuel poverty would bring many more people into that band, said Kirsten Horton, a senior adviser at the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy. Currently, someone is considered fuel poor if they are on a low income and living somewhere with high energy costs. In the new strategy, the metric would change to high income plus low energy efficiency housing (ie, bands D-G).

2. The number of people living in overcrowded accommodation has never been so high
Tim Elwell-Sutton, assistant director of strategic partnerships at the Health Foundation, spoke about the relationship between health, inequality and housing. In a section on overcrowding, he said that COVID-19 deaths are more common in areas with more overcrowding. He also pointed out that key workers are more likely to live in overcrowded conditions – and that overcrowding has increased during the pandemic.

3. How to interpret an Electrical Installation Condition Report
Frank Bertie, chief technical officer at the building services registration scheme NAPIT, took delegates through some of the detail in the new Electrical Safety Standards in the Private Rented Sector (England) Regulations. Under these, private landlords must ensure every electrical installation in their residential premises is inspected and tested at intervals of no more than five years by a qualified and competent person. Bertie’s presentation also shed light on the codes and shorthand that an electrical inspector might use on their report.

4. “We can’t control security of tenure and rent levels but we can regulate PRS standards”
So said David Beach, the director of enforcement at Waltham Forest Council, who presides over an extensive and successful selective licensing scheme. He brought the council’s priorities and moral obligations into his presentation, which could serve as a checklist for any authority looking to make the case for a selective licensing scheme.

5. The new Building Safety Regulator (BSR) is currently in ‘shadow form’
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE), which has been tasked with setting up the new regulator, is working on a ‘shadow’ BSR while the Building Safety Bill goes through parliament. According to Annette Hall of HSE and Julian Schon from the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government, it’s working on infrastructure and the search for the country’s first chief inspector of buildings.

6. “There was high potential for a loss of life”
Nick McCormack, station manager at Merseyside Fire & Rescue Service, was embedded in Liverpool City Council to work on building safety in the wake of the Grenfell tragedy when an EHP came into the office with photographs of a new block of flats. Unfinished windows, missing cladding and flammable debris were just a few of the issues that set alarm bells ringing for him and private sector housing services licensing manager Louise Connelly. This was the start of a long and complex process including prohibition orders (POs) and much legal wrangling. After well over a year, remediation works have finally been done and the POs lifted. “They’re not pretty but they just about comply,” Connelly said.

7. “It’s not a priority for government”
Mairead Anne Carroll, associate director for residential standards at RICS, is on the regulation of property agents working group, which aims to come up with a single mandatory regulatory regime and code of conduct for property agents. The problem is this work began under Theresa May’s administration. In the most recent Conservative manifesto, Carroll’s work didn’t even get a mention. The group is undeterred, though, and will continue to build the case for regulation.

8. “Not many landlords support licensing schemes …
“… but where they do, it’s around tackling that bad reputation and weeding out the criminality,” said Adam Knight-Markiegi, research director at MEL Research. He was talking about the contrasting views of stakeholders towards selective and additional licensing – and how different authorities go about addressing them.

CIEH’s conferences will continue to be online for now. The format might be different but the speakers and the content are of the same high standard you have come to expect from the CIEH events team. You also have the opportunity to ask questions in real time via the online platform that hosts the conferences. Browse future events and book your place here.

This is an edited version of an article that appeared in the October 2020 issue of EHN (login required).

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