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Welsh Homes: Government `must act on cold housing'.

Byline: PHIL DAVIES

FAR too little is being done by Government about cold housing that kills tens of thousands of people each winter.

The allegation comes from the Builders Merchants Federation (BMF) which condemns what it calls the anomaly of a very rich country with thousands of its people dying because of the cold.

BMF president Stuart Somerville said it was high time the Government addressed the problem by offering grants to improve the condition of private rented housing.

``These properties are often cold and damp and contribute to the 40,000 estimated excess deaths that will occur this winter,'' said Mr Somerville.

Many of these are caused by heart attacks and strokes directly attributable to cold housing.''

Anecdotal evidence backing the call for action has come from a survey to be published next month, the English House Condition Survey (EHCS).

It is expected to reveal that over a million homes have been classed as ``unfit'' and that each will need more than pounds 5,500 of repairs to come up to scratch.

Mr Somerville claimed that at least 200,000 of these homes are in the private rented sector where there is a large number of older, converted properties in need of substantial repair and investment in central heating and insulation.

``Only by tackling the poor state of repair of homes in the private sector will the Government significantly cut the number of excess winter deaths,'' said Mr Somerville. ``I will be writing to housing minister Tony McNulty when the EHCS is published to demand more Government funding for repairs.''

The BMF feels the new system, where the local authorities can offer loans as well as grants, is unlikely to appeal to private landlords who need a real financial incentive to deal with problems that rebound, sometimes fatally, on tenants.

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KILLER COLD: Government must act to protect elderly people
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Jan 25, 2003
Words:312
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