Fuel Poverty is a Health issue
An massive increase in reports of damp and mould in social housing because tenants on low incomes can no longer afford to switch on their heating has emerged as the latest unwelcome sign of Britain's cost-of-living crisis.
Social housing maintenance experts say a new condensation damp phenomenon – which was considered a marginal issue for social landlords until a few months ago – is a direct result of increasing poverty and rising energy bills.
Aragon, recently started to monitor reports of damp and mould and discovered they had more than tripled over the past year, a rise it attributes to hard-up tenants not being able to afford to put money in the electricity meter – or being too worried about their finances to turn on the heating.
Managing director, Aileen Evans, said: "This is about poverty. It is not about a malfunctioning technical component; it is about people who cannot afford to use their heating system. These tenants are choosing not to heat."
Damp housing is most often associated with old, poorly insulated dwellings – but Aragon, which has 6,500 properties in mainly rural central Bedfordshire, has spent millions of pounds ensuring its properties have the highest energy efficiency ratings in social housing in the south-east of England.
In November, Aragon registered 76 complaints about damp and mould, up from 22 in the same month last year. When it analysed the figures for the previous four years, it discovered that damp reports had been climbing each winter, roughly in line with rises in energy bills.
Condensation dampness – regarded as a major public health risk because it can exacerbate respiratory diseases such as asthma