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Assessing housing quality and its impact on health, safety and sustainability
  1. Michael Keall1,
  2. Michael G Baker1,
  3. Philippa Howden-Chapman1,
  4. Malcolm Cunningham2,
  5. David Ormandy3
  1. 1He Kainga Oranga/Housing and Health Research Programme, University of Otago, Wellington, New Zealand
  2. 2BRANZ Ltd, Porirua, New Zealand
  3. 3WHO Collaborating Centre for Housing Standards and Health, School of Health and Social Studies, University of Warwick, Warwick, UK
  1. Correspondence to Dr Michael Keall, He Kainga Oranga/Housing and Health Research Programme, University of Otago, 23A Mein Street, Newtown, Wellington 6242, New Zealand; michael.keall{at}


Background The adverse health and environmental effects of poor housing quality are well established. A central requirement for evidence-based policies and programmes to improve housing standards is a valid, reliable and practical way of measuring housing quality that is supported by policy agencies, the housing sector, researchers and the public.

Methods This paper provides guidance on the development of housing quality-assessment tools that link practical measures of housing conditions to their effects on health, safety and sustainability, with particular reference to tools developed in New Zealand and England.

Results The authors describe how information on housing quality can support individuals, agencies and the private sector to make worthwhile improvements to the health, safety and sustainability of housing. The information gathered and the resultant tools developed should be guided by the multiple purposes and end users of this information. Other important issues outlined include deciding on the scope, detailed content, practical administration issues and how the information will be analysed and summarised for its intended end users. There are likely to be considerable benefits from increased international collaboration and standardisation of approaches to measuring housing hazards. At the same time, these assessment approaches need to consider local factors such as climate, geography, culture, predominating building practices, important housing-related health issues and existing building codes.

Conclusions An effective housing quality-assessment tool has a central role in supporting improvements to housing. The issues discussed in this paper are designed to motivate and assist the development of such tools.

  • Housing
  • health
  • safety
  • sustainability
  • quality measures
  • environmental health
  • housing and health
  • measurement
  • urban health

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  • Funding He Kainga Oranga/Housing and Health Research Programme is funded by the New Zealand Health Research Council.

  • Competing interests None.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.