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Behind the Green Curve: Britain’s Missing Housing Revolution

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 01/02/2022 - 9:29pm in

Behind the Green CurveBritain’s Missing Housing Revolution

The UK’s green housing initiatives lag way behind our European counterparts, explain Jon Bloomfield and Patrick Willcocks

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Energy is the issue rising up the political agenda. Bills are increasing fast, with a big hike in the price cap set by the Government scheduled for this April.

Listen to voices in the right-wing press and coming out of the Conservative ‘Net Zero Scrutiny Group’ and the main culprits are green levies and subsidies to renewables.  Read the cultural warriors like academic Matthew Goodwin and they have the climate change agenda set firmly in their sights.

This is a foretaste of battles to come.

The climate deniers have morphed into sceptics; they now profess to accept the science but claim it is too difficult and expensive to do anything about it. They may have changed tactics and tone, but they remain deniers at heart.

As Boris Johnson’s time as Prime Minister appears to be drawing to a close, climate change looks set to be the new ‘culture war’ battleground, as the hard-right looks to rally around a figurehead seeking to reverse Johnson’s tepid – but real – acceptance of the climate change agenda.

The Draughtiest Housing in Europe

The climate sceptics never mention that UK households are particularly exposed to spikes in electricity and gas prices because Britain has the worst housing quality in western Europe with the most energy inefficient homes.

As the map below shows, on a cold day UK households experience three times the heat loss of their German or Scandinavian counterparts. People cannot see the heat loss, but it shows in their bills. 

Photo: Jon Bloomfield

Yet, the Government’s two efforts to address the coldest and leakiest housing in Europe have been disastrous failures. 

David Cameron’s flagship scheme – the grossly misnamed ‘Green Deal’ – aspired to be “Europe’s most innovative and transformational energy efficiency programme”. However, its annual target of two million retrofitted homes struggled to reach just 6,000, less than 1% of its target.

The Government’s model of high interest, private loans through an independent finance company simply did not deliver. Its broader failure was highlighted recently in an article in Carbon Brief showing how Cameron’s anti-green measures have added £2.5 billion to UK energy bills since 2015. 

The Conservatives’ second attempt at energy efficiency – the Green Homes Grant scheme – was launched in Boris Johnson’s 10-point ‘Green Industrial Revolution’ plan. It was contracted-out to the US global consulting firm ICF. Of the £1.5 billion promised in its first year, only £71 million – less than 5% – was spent. The scheme was then scrapped, having reached just 10% of the 600,000 homes that the Chancellor had promised would be improved.

The contracted-out, top-down, ‘householder as consumer’ model has failed – yet the Government is still pursuing a largely individual, householder-based approach, without setting an annual target for housing renovation. 

Learning from Europe

This is not just a UK issue. The swift and effective transformation of housing stock is one of the central tests for Europe’s net-zero ambitions. 

All the advantages of focusing on building refurbishment are clearly laid out in this European Commission document – not least ensuring substantial emission reductions before 2030 and creating thousands of jobs.

Is Europe up to the challenge?

The agreement hammered out between the German Social Democrats, Greens and Liberals represents the most serious attempt yet by a national government to develop an eco-social market economy. The combination of three parties drawn from distinctive political traditions, along with the backing of the Confederation of German Industry, indicates the breadth of the coalition mobilising around the climate change agenda. 

On energy efficiency and renovation, this new German coalition can build on the impressive work undertaken by previous governments operating the country’s social market model, which gives a crucial role to state financial intervention and regulatory support. Thus, in 2020, the state reconstruction bank, KfW, in its energy efficiency programme awarded loans and grants worth €27 billion for the renovation of almost half a million residential units.


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The contrast with Rishi Sunak’s Green Homes scheme is astounding. The German programme is now being strengthened: it covers both residential and non-residential buildings; wholesale retrofit as well as partial; includes grants for a whole range of technologies as well as systemic measures such as the installation of digital technologies to optimise consumption; plus grants to ensure that projects are professionally planned with building owners, able to consult energy-efficiency experts.

France, where buildings account for 28% of carbon emissions and overall emissions have been reduced by just 3% since 1990, is looking to follow the German example.

The High Council on Climate has called for a rapid increase in the number of high-performance energy renovations underpinned by a generous support scheme combining loans and grants.

From 1 January this year, all French renovation efforts have been streamlined into a single national energy renovation service, ‘France Renov’. Last year, the service accepted 670,000 applications – more than 10 times the number from 2016 and the Minister of Housing Emmanuelle Wargon has set the target of one million renovations for 2022.

This plan emphasises the need to support low-income households to ensure that this is an equitable transition. The old industrial areas of northern France around Lille are already showing how this can be done. In Spain, Italy and elsewhere, each of the national recovery plans that complement the European Green Deal has a significant energy efficiency and renovation component.

What we see here is coordinated public sector action at national, regional and local levels designed to encourage both individual and collective initiatives. There is an acceptance of government investment and strong regulation, in contrast to small-state advocates on the Conservative right. 

Lobbying for Change

The scale of the task in the UK is significant.

The Institution of Engineering and Technology in its report, ‘Scaling Up Retrofit 2050‘, advises that nearly every home in the UK needs to be upgraded with energy efficiency measures at a rate of more than 1.5 homes every minute to 2050. That is just less than 800,000 a year.

Labour Leader Keir Starmer has pledged that a Labour Government would spend £6 billion a year for a decade to retrofit 19 million homes to a minimum standard of energy performance band C. This is significant, but less than a quarter of what Germany is already spending.

The Energy Efficiency Infrastructure Group (EEIG), a campaigning body composed of charities and business organisations including the Confederation of British Industry, is calling on the Prime Minister to prioritise cutting energy bill through better insulation.

EEIG chairwoman Sarah Kostense-Winterton says that “a permanent solution to lower bills is by reducing demand through energy efficiency measures”.


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In the short-term, the EEIG wants the Government to provide additional support, such as expanding the ‘Warm Homes Discount’ for vulnerable households to prevent a fuel poverty emergency. The EEIG is also calling for a new £3.6 billion grant or subsidy scheme to help all households insulate their homes. The insulation call has been backed by MPs on the Conservative Environment Network. But the smaller climate-sceptic Net Zero Scrutiny group has the ear of the Conservative press and is dominating the media discussion.

One initiative that has real potential comes from the 11 major cities forming the Core Cities group. Along with the London boroughs, they have come together to seek large-scale, private sector funding for low carbon projects. The big cities know that capital resources need to be mobilised at scale for mass retrofitting and they cannot rely on a miserly Treasury, which under Sunak is looking to reassert the Thatcherite mindset.

At the COP26 climate change summit last November, Mark Carney, former Governor of the Bank of England, confirmed the role of the Glasgow Financial Alliance for Net Zero (GFANZ) and claimed that it has a total of $130 trillion assets under management ready to deploy for low carbon purposes across the globe. NatWest claims a £100 billion target for financing decarbonisation by 2025. The Core Cities initiative is designed to unlock these resources and enable cities to undertake innovative, whole-neighbourhood energy efficiency schemes.

With a Government in disarray and its policy options paralysed as the climate-sceptic right looks to reassert small-state thinking, it is likely that cities and other municipalities will have to negotiate with the banks – and learn to do it for themselves.  

 Jon Bloomfield is an honorary research fellow at the University of Birmingham and the author with Fred Steward of a blog series on ‘Making the Green New Deal Happen’. Patrick Willcocks is a freelance policy advisor focused on cities, sustainability and creativity, based in Birmingham

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“Cool Roofs” Are Helping Women Earn More in India

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 31/01/2022 - 7:00pm in

During the scorching midday heat in Behrampura, a slum in the Indian city of Ahmedabad, it can be difficult to breathe, let alone get any work done. Throughout the summer, peak daytime temperatures often exceed 38C (100F). Crowded and cramped housing, a lack of ventilation and the prevalence of cheap, heat-trapping materials such as metal roofs magnify that heat to even more unbearable levels.

“The heat has been going up and up,” says Dilshadbanu Mohammed Jhilani Shaikh, a mother of four living in a shack in Behrampura. “It gets so bad that you just can’t do anything, not even move. You’re so drained of energy.”

On May 19, 2016, Ahmedabad recorded a maximum temperature of 48.4C (119F), its hottest day in a century. That year, Shaikh decided to take action against the heat. She invested 120,000 rupees (USD$1,584) — a significant sum which she borrowed from a friend — in a cool-roof technology module, installing it with the support of Mahila Housing SEWA Trust (MHST), an Indian nonprofit that works with collectives of grassroots women in the informal sector to improve their housing, living and working environments.

The roofs can help prevent heat-related deaths, a major problem in places like India — during that 2016 heatwave, dozens of deaths were reported by the city’s hospitals. But they can also combat a less visible, more pernicious effect: the slow-burn impact of extreme heat that leaves people tired, sick and sleepless, making it harder for them to study or work. The International Labor Organization projects that India will lose the equivalent of 34 million full-time jobs in 2030 due to heat stress alone. 

Since Shaikh’s new roof was installed, daily temperatures in the house have on average been four to five degrees cooler. Credit: MHST

Tasked with domestic chores and often earning their income from home, women living in informal settlements are particularly susceptible to this type of heat-related stress. A study conducted by MHST found that increased indoor temperatures severely affect women home-based workers, with their productivity falling by up to 50 percent in summer, reducing their income. But since informal housing is rarely subject to planning regulations and conventional air conditioning is expensive, systemic and scalable solutions can be hard to implement.

Lower temps, higher earnings

For Shaikh, who handmakes kites to sell during Ahmedabad’s famed annual festival, having a cooler place to work at home is essential. (Her husband, an electrician, is out of the house most of the day.) But since the new roof was installed — a modular unit made from packaging and agricultural waste — daily temperatures in the house have on average been 4C to 5C cooler. That means her potential workday has been extended by a couple of hours, increasing the number of kites she makes. “My quality of life is better,” she says. “But it’s also much better economically. That investment has already earned itself back.”

The roof has sheltered Shaikh’s family in other ways, too. Climate change has brought not only hotter temperatures, but also more intense monsoons during the rainy season. Before, that meant Shaikh’s kites, which are stored at her home, could be damaged if the roof was breached. “I had a constant fear that the water would drop,” she says. Now, with the reinforcements, there’s no longer any leakage during heavy rains. 

Other women surveyed by MHST have reported saving money on electricity bills through reduced use of fans, being able to continue working during the peak heat hours of 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. and that their children are able to study at home with better concentration.

MHST is working in seven cities across India — including Rajasthan, New Delhi and Jaipur — to help women like Shaikh tackle heat stress in their homes. More than 27,000 households across 1,066 slum settlements have been supported in installing sustainable cooling technologies. Among the suite of technologies are modular roofs like Shaikh’s, which are easy to install, construct and replace; solar reflective white paint, which effectively reduces heat absorption (and is also being used on the streets of Los Angeles); and resin-coated bamboo mats that form strong, lightweight, weather-resistant panels.

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“Most people use tarpaulin, metal sheets in their houses,” says Pranita Sinha of MHST. “There’s a lack of ventilation. It’s a tough situation. But these tools help cool them right down, in ways that fit with their living environment.”

The nonprofit has taken an “holistic,” gender-sensitive approach, consulting women from affected communities, as well as local government officials, scientists, engineers and architects. “We are a women-based organization,” adds Sinha. “Women living in informal settlements are often overlooked. We want to change that and prioritize them. But we have to build trust and consult them. When they trust you, they give you permission to do anything.”

With growing health risks from rising temperatures, the lack of essential indoor cooling is becoming a deadly threat. Almost 500,000 people die each year due to extreme heat, according to a study published in July in The Lancet. A separate study published in 2019 estimated that 1.8 to 4.1 billion people, mostly in India, Southeast Asia and sub-Saharan Africa, are vulnerable to heat stress and lack access to technology to cool living spaces. 

indiaThe exterior of Shaikh’s home. Credit: MHST

“It’s a very serious issue in India,” says Narasimha Rao, co-author of the study and associate professor of energy systems at Yale University. “A lot of these people live in conditions that don’t protect them from heat. They live in cities where there’s an urban heating effect. These are the worst possible conditions. Every day people are dying.”

Rao believes MHST’s focus on improving the informal housing structures could have a powerful and immediate impact. “It’s most important because the roof is usually of the poorest quality,” he says. “These are extremely important in the short term, because you don’t have to move them from their homes.”

However, he argues that in the coming decades residential buildings in India need to be completely upgraded. “If we’re thinking about the longer term, we have to create better housing structures,” he says. “Origin of services such as sanitation must be improved, and overcrowding, especially in urban areas, must be reduced.”

In the meantime, MHST is trying to broaden its reach and make access to the tech more equitable. Some women can’t afford to invest in these technologies, according to Sinha, and so the nonprofit is developing a project on the world’s first “heat insurance,” which could financially secure the livelihoods of women suffering heat stress. “Good health and independence is the least that they deserve,” she says.

The post “Cool Roofs” Are Helping Women Earn More in India appeared first on Reasons to be Cheerful.

Monthly digest on housing affordability and homelessness

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 29/01/2022 - 4:56am in

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This is the latest monthly digest of articles, research reports, policy announcements and other material about housing stress/affordability and homelessness. Not just more supply, but the right supply NSW Professors Bill Randolph and Hal Pawson provide introductory remarks to their City Futures Research Centre’s written submission to the current federal parliamentary Inquiry (see submission no. Continue reading »

Zoned out: how land use restrictions divide the nation

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 14/01/2022 - 4:55am in

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Housing policies ensure continual wealth gains for current home owners while leaving renters and potential buyers locked out of the market. Housing policy is a battle between the haves and the have-nots. The haves are the current generation of wealthy home owners. They have enjoyed large capital gains over the past few decades and are sitting Continue reading »

The Minister of Housing’s Mandate Letter

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 11/01/2022 - 12:56am in

On 16 December 2021, mandate letters for Canada’s federal ministers were made public. The letter for Canada’s Minister of Housing and Diversity and Inclusion contains an important set of marching orders.

I break it down in this ‘top 10’ blog post: https://nickfalvo.ca/the-minister-of-housings-mandate-letter/

The Minister of Housing’s Mandate Letter

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 11/01/2022 - 12:56am in

On 16 December 2021, mandate letters for Canada’s federal ministers were made public. The letter for Canada’s Minister of Housing and Diversity and Inclusion contains an important set of marching orders.

I break it down in this ‘top 10’ blog post: https://nickfalvo.ca/the-minister-of-housings-mandate-letter/

Building Back Botched

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 10/01/2022 - 11:01am in

Building Back Botched

The Government’s housing and construction plans are failing to deliver the country’s housing needs, a new parliamentary report has found

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The Government’s ‘Building Back Better’ target of 300,000 new homes a year will fail unless there are radical changes in everything from planning to tackling huge skills shortages in the construction industry, a new report by peers claims today.

It states that more than £50 billion of taxpayers’ money is being wasted on the Chancellor’s ‘Help to Buy’ scheme and on housing benefits which would be better spent on building new homes.

The new Lords Built Environment Committee, chaired by Baroness Lucy Neville Rolfe – a former Conservative Treasury and Business Minister – states that blockages across the building industry and planning departments are holding back the Government’s “ambitious” targets to build one million new homes by 2025.

Rishi Sunak’s £29 billion Help to Buy scheme which gives first-time buyers a 20% equity loan – 40% in Greater London – has failed to stimulate new building except on the English-Welsh border and made some situations worse. In Greater London, it has “led to a substantive increase in house prices, with no statistically significant effect on construction numbers”. The report calls for it to be scrapped and money ploughed into housing.

Similarly, the £23.4 billion spent on housing benefits every year is going on subsidising high priced rented accommodation and would in the long-term be better spent on new affordable social housing for the poor, the report finds.


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It goes on to list a catalogue of failures that are holding back the building programme and states that the uncertainty around the future of planning is having a “chilling” factor on house building.

“It is impossible to have a ‘plan-led’ system of development in the absence of local plans and without sufficient planners,” the report states. “Currently, more than half of local planning authorities do not have an up-to-date local plan. Spending on planning has fallen by 14.6% since 2010 causing delays, issues with recruitment, and staff shortages in many authorities. Any new planning system will only work if local planning authorities have the resources and staff to implement it.” 

The report states that there is a huge shortage of skilled people which is holding up construction. Some 217,000 carpenters, plumbers, bricklayers, roofers, civil engineers and other skilled traders need to be recruited. Peers blame the failure of the Construction Industry Training Board for not planning ahead to deal with this. At the moment, there are 48,000 vacancies for skilled traders – nearly double the figure before the Coronavirus pandemic.

“Skills shortages in the construction, design and planning sectors must be addressed to unlock the required development,” the peers said. “This will include broadening the base of talent, upskilling and reskilling, including for the green skills needed to address climate change. The number of apprenticeships starts has fallen by over 25% since the introduction of the apprenticeship levy.”

Women currently make up 4% of the workforce and ethnic minorities just 1% of senior staff.

The skills shortage is also compounded by the collapse of small and medium-sized house-building firms. In the 1980s, such companies accounted for almost 40% of house builders. Now, they account for just 10%. The peers call for help to expand their role including better access for finance, the release of more small plots for development and fast-track planning procedures.

The report includes figures from the Office for National Statistics showing that housing demand will increase by 2028, with the population expected to grow by three million mainly through immigration. It predicts that some 5.4 million people will come to the UK and that 3.3 million will leave. The increase will outstrip the growth in the population living here which will rise by 800,000. This means that 164,000 new households will need new homes every year.

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The report also cites one possible solution – an innovative plan by a research group in Greater Manchester to build new homes on spare land next to and near 242 commuter stations with the aim of reducing the use of cars. This could provide 395,000 new homes.

Baroness Neville-Rolfe said: “Uncertainty and the absence of a clear policy direction has only exacerbated housing problems. Our report provides a package of proposals to help deliver much-needed housing and address the critical undersupply of new homes.”

Steve Radley, strategy and policy director of CITB, the industry training board for the construction industry, told Byline Times: “Skill shortages in home building are long-standing, have many causes and many organisations have a role in addressing them. CITB grants have helped employers train and recruit thousands of workers but there are many more young people full-time in colleges who would jump at the chance to work in the industry if more employers offered apprenticeships.     

“CITB has made a significant investment of time and money to help address this in recent years. This includes a partnership with the Home Builders Federation to support more effective collaboration between major builders and their supply chains, traineeships that will bring further education students in areas such as bricklaying into work and supporting master classes to improve the skills of existing workers.

“We are also supporting employers that are looking to use new approaches by investing In training to support offsite construction. Our new business plan will introduce a further package of measures to support apprenticeship and work experience and raise the skills of existing workers.”

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The post Building Back Botched appeared first on Byline Times.

Renegade Predictions 2022

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 31/12/2021 - 5:01pm in

A selection of Renegade Inc. guests mull over events of the past year and make suggestions as to what we can expect for the year ahead.

The post Renegade Predictions 2022 appeared first on Renegade Inc.

Renegade Predictions 2022

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 31/12/2021 - 5:01pm in

A selection of Renegade Inc. guests mull over events of the past year and make suggestions as to what we can expect for the year ahead.

The post Renegade Predictions 2022 appeared first on Renegade Inc.

Monthly digest on housing affordability and homelessness

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 24/12/2021 - 4:30am in

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Housing

This is the latest monthly digest of articles, research reports, policy announcements and other material about housing stress/affordability and homelessness. New NSW planning policy looks good for people but developers are furious The Fifth Estate’s Tina Perinotto reports on reactions to the NSW government’s release of its new draft State Environmental Planning Policy (SEPP), which NSW’s Planning Continue reading »

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