Derelict properties are harming the health of renters

A 2016 journal article on housing and health data in Australia confirms what many renters probably know from experience: that Australian renters live in properties that are in worse condition, and this is bad for their health.

The article reports on a study that draws upon Household Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia (HILDA) to look at building quality in Australia, how it relates to tenure type and other demographic factors, and the impact on health. 

In total, around one in five properties are classified as being in "poor-derelict" condition. The researchers found that private renters were three times more likely than owner-occupiers to live in a "poor-derelict" dwelling, with public housing renters being six times more likely. People with disabilities or ill-health, people with low incomes, and Indigenous people are also more likely to live in "poor-derelict" properties. In fact, over one in four people in "poor-derelict" dwellings had a disability or a long-term health condition. 

People living in these poor-quality dwellings were also less healthy. The HILDA data include self-reported health outcomes, which indicate that people living in the "poor-derelict" properties had worse physical, mental, and general health. This is consistent with other research which has established links between poor housing quality and poor health, including poor mental health such as emotional distress, mental health, anxiety, and depression.

There is good news though - the article notes that "warmth and energy efficiency seemed to have the clearest positive impacts on health". If the ACT Government acts to introduce minimum energy efficiency standards for rental properties, then more renters will be able to avoid the physical and mental health effects of cold, damp, leaky properties.