The Green Homes Grant has recently opened for applications to allow people across Britain to improve the emissions quality of their homes by supplementing the cost of renovations. The grant will allow applicants to claim up to £5,000 (£10,000 for low-income homeowners) towards the cost of two energy-improving works and available to live-in homeowners and landlords alike.
While the grant will be an effective means of raising the standards of Britain’s current housing stock, the application has been open for mere weeks and there are already issues arising for homeowners who are looking to apply and tradespeople who will be expected to carry out the work. So, is this grant as effective as it is purported to be and is it really serving those who need it most?
The importance of home energy efficiency
15% of UK carbon emissions come from home energy use, totalling around 150 million tonnes per year. To reach Britain’s 2030 emissions targets, this must reduce by 15%, and will need to fall even further to reach net zero by 2050. While the energy efficiency of new homes will of course be essential to creating lasting, effective housing, there are thousands of homes across the country that fall short of even the bare minimum. This has an effect on our national energy output, as well as the personal cost of energy for each home, making initiatives like the Green Homes Grant essential in the fight against climate breakdown.
The E rating target
The UK government deems houses below an E rating on the Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) scale ‘uninhabitable’ and have granted councils the power to hand out hefty fines to landlords who rent out properties at this level. However, councils have admitted that making sure every property is up to standard will be difficult to police, given that improvements by landlords can be capped at £3,500 despite not reaching the E rating and there are a number of exemptions that can be applied for. This means that tenants could remain in low-quality homes way past the deadline, spending more on their energy and being unable to reduce their carbon contribution.
Places with the most F & G rated homes
From research carried out by InventoryBase, we found the areas in England with the highest number of F & G rated properties. Of the 20 constituencies with the highest proportion of low-quality homes, 10 are in the South West, with 4 of these making the top 5 in the country. In St Ives, the constituency with the highest proportion, 22% of properties have a rating lower than an E, with Penrith and the Border in the North West coming in second with nearly 19%.
Our research also shows that there are more than 823,000 homes currently with an F or a G rating across England alone. The government has stated that they intend 600,000 homes to be improved through this strategy and the government’s own website outlines that landlords who apply for the grant must prove that their property is already rated an E or above or that they have an exemption. Because of this, thousands of the most low-quality homes in the UK could miss out on the opportunity to improve.
Lack of landlord incentive
The threat of fines is expected to be used as a stick to encourage landlords to improve the quality of their homes for renters, but limiting this scheme to only those landlords whose properties are E or above could be taking the carrot away from those with the worst quality homes on the market. If landlords can’t afford the upgrades themselves and are unable to qualify for other third-party finance, we could soon see properties being removed from the market due to their poor-quality emissions ratings.
Shortage of installers available
On top of this, the National Insulation Association (NIA) have written to the chancellor to request clarity of the future of the scheme, as they believe the projected timeline is too short. Under the scheme, applicants will not have to pay with their own money and be reimbursed, but will rather receive the voucher to give directly to their chosen firm. The NIA claims that the first vouchers aren’t due to be issued until mid-November and that, with the scheme closing at the end of March next year, this doesn’t leave enough time for all 600,000 homes to be upgraded.
If the government’s intention is to level up Britain’s current housing stock, they will need to listen to the concerns of insulators and other tradespeople and adapt their strategy to make sure as many homes as possible can be improved. Improving the emissions of homes will have positive personal, national and global consequences, reducing energy bills and carbon output on a huge scale and is therefore vital going forward.
Damon Culbert works at InventoryBase, which provides property inventory software for landlords and property professionals.