New website in London let’s homebuyers see level of air pollution that could affect purchase price

The Central Office of Public Interest (COPI), the not-for-profit campaign behind the website, believes that property prices could plummet in the most polluted areas of London when buyers become aware of the problem. Ben Webster explains in an article in The Times.

 

Pollution hotspots website could drive down London house prices

The Clean Air for All campaign launched by The Times in May calls for a live pollution monitor in every postcode

Homebuyers are being encouraged to seek discounts of up to 20 per cent by checking a new website that reveals the level of air pollution on each doorstep.

The site uses data from King’s College London to give the level of nitrogen dioxide, a toxic gas released when diesel, petrol and gas are burnt, for every postcode in the capital.

Addresspollution.org shows that streets in Chelsea, Regent’s Park, Notting Hill and other areas where homes often cost millions of pounds have air pollution well above the legal limit of 40 micrograms of NO2 per cubic metre of air (mcg/m3).

The Central Office of Public Interest (COPI), the not-for-profit campaign behind the website, believes that property prices could plummet in the most polluted areas when buyers become aware of the problem, predicting falls of more than £250,000 in Chelsea.

It hopes the checker will prompt homeowners to demand action on pollution from the government and local authorities. It plans to extend the tool to other cities and is seeking funding to work with King’s to produce air pollution data for every 20 metres square, at present available only for London.

Estate agents have welcomed the initiative and called on sellers to provide more information on air pollution to potential buyers. One expert said that this would soon be standard across the industry. The Clean Air for All campaign launched by The Times in May calls for a live pollution monitor in every postcode. Dirty air cuts short 40,000 lives in the UK each year and costs £20 billion in healthcare and impact on businesses, according to the Royal College of Physicians.

The new website gives homes air pollution ratings of one to five, ranging from “low” to “very high”, which is 50 per cent above the legal limit. A three-bedroom flat on Bayswater Road overlooking Hyde Park, valued at £1.7 million, scores four, or high, as it as in an area with an annual NO2 average of 45mcg/m3.

The website sets out the risks for people living in the flat, saying that long-term exposure to high levels of air pollution “leads to respiratory symptoms including irritation, coughing and difficulty breathing”.

In a section on financial costs, it says: “Independent research shows 45 per cent of Londoners think that a discount of at least 20 per cent should be applied to your home’s sale price. On the average home in Westminster, this could equate to a reduction of £213,830.

“Those renting in areas with this rating should seek a reduction in rent if they are able to renegotiate their lease.”

COPI commissioned a survey of 500 London homeowners and found that 76 per cent believed buyers and renters should get a discount on properties in areas with illegal pollution levels.

Mark Hayward, chief executive of the National Association of Estate Agents, urged his members to give buyers air pollution information. “Estate agents are legally obliged to declare material issues that could affect the price of a house to a buyer,” he said.

“The legal argument about air pollution goes that it isn’t a material issue so does not need to be flagged. This argument does not hold up when we know that disease-related mortality increases in areas of significant air pollution.

“This needs to be addressed and I am urging estate agents to lead the change . . . Air quality is now public information and it will never not be again. This is going to be industry standard. It’s inevitable.”

Frank Kelly, professor of environmental health at King’s College London, said: “Many people don’t learn about air pollution levels and the health consequences until after they have suffered its effects. With an air quality rating for every house in the country, using the latest data provided by King’s, this will enable the public to better understand the air quality at their own front door and equip them with an understanding of how best to improve their local air quality.”

COPI has paid for billboards in several highly polluted parts of London with slogans such as “These houses cost an arm, leg and lung” and “Location, location, lung disease”. Humphrey Milles, its founder, said: “Air pollution is killing people across the country and London is worst hit, but people don’t believe it will affect them personally. The air quality rating is a tool to change these perceptions and show just how real, and dangerous, air pollution is.”

The cost of dirty air

  • Air pollution cuts short 40,000 lives across Britain each year and costs the economy £20 billion, according to the Royal College of Physicians.
  • Public Health England’s forecasts show that if left unchecked, pollutants will cause 2.4 million new cases of disease in the next 16 years.
  • Nitrogen dioxide, the toxic gas measured in the postcode checker, irritates the airways and contributes to the development of asthma and other respiratory diseases.
  • Children in polluted areas have been shown to have stunted lungs and a study found those living near big roads were 50 per cent more likely to develop asthma. Lung function declines faster in adults living near busy roads.
  • Long-term exposure is known to increase the risk of lung cancer, with estimates that it causes up to 3,000 cases in Britain each year.
  • Exposure is linked to lower birthweight and premature birth.

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