With the General Election just over a year away, there is an important opportunity for political parties to provide a clear plan that can build homes that cater for the future of the community and planet. Councillor Silvia Dacre, climate change and net zero spokesperson at SIGOMA and cabinet member for resources at Calderdale Council, explains how.
- Some 12.6 million properties in England have an energy performance certificate (EPC) Rating of D or below, missing the Government’s target for all current UK households to reach a minimum of C.
- The Government needs to create a dedicated Net Zero goal funding pot to help councils fund net zero projects, such as uplifting all housing to EPC C by 2035 and 2028 for privately rented accommodation.
- Councils should receive block funding via Combined Authorities and other devolved bodies to avoid expensive and time-consuming bidding processes for vital funds.
They say charity begins at home. The idea that local people know what’s best for their community – now commonly known as devolution – is an approach supported by all political parties.
The challenge remains how best to deliver it. Specifically, regarding which powers councils should be given to help address the greatest challenges of our time.
One area that remains largely centralised and fails to provide councils up and down the country with the tools they need is both building new environmentally sustainable houses and transitioning our current housing block into efficient homes for the future.
With the General Election just over a year away, there is an important opportunity for political parties to provide a clear plan that can build homes that cater for the future of the community and planet.
Solving the sustainable problem
Our analysis reveals that currently, 12.6 million properties in England have an EPC Rating of D or below, with higher concentrations of these properties located in typically more deprived areas. The Government has set a target for all current UK households to reach a minimum EPC rating of C by 2028 and new buildings for 2035.
The disparity across the country is even more alarming. Around 56% of all dwellings in England have an EPC rating of D or below. Across Yorkshire and Humber, the figure stands at 63%, with the West Midlands at 61% and the North West at 59%. Further south, the figures drop considerably. In London, the percentage of dwellings with EPC Band ‘D’ or below is 50%.
The most deprived households reside in the oldest and poorest maintained housing. Without funding to improve their conditions, these disparities have increased over recent years and will continue to do so in the future.
Improving the efficiency of homes is vital to every area of the UK if we are to reach the UK Government’s net zero target as well as relieve the cost-of-living crisis for the most deprived households and communities.
Local authorities will be key to helping the Government achieve these targets, both in the enforcement of renting rules and assisting in the uplift of residential properties with energy-efficient solutions, which can range from improving glazing systems to installing a heat pump.
The Government needs to act quickly if we have any hope of reaching the EPC target, which is now just five years away. This starts with creating a clear strategy that can give councils the tools and support to uplift housing by providing a clear plan – rather than just promising money that pits councils against one another – and put us on a clear path to achieving our net zero objectives.
Going local to solve global challenges
In our first-ever Manifesto for over a decade, released in May 2023, SIGOMA laid out a series of policy priorities that both the current and future governments should adopt, and would go some way in chartering a clear course for all UK households to reach a minimum EPC rating of C by 2035.
Firstly, the ambitious target can only be achieved by giving councils the tools, funds and authority to work with housebuilders and existing tenants to ensure adequate retrofitting solutions are implemented.
An immediate £10 billion grant should be made available to help support the most deprived households in improving energy-efficient homes. Going forward, to help provide a scalable solution for England, a dedicated Net Zero goal funding pot to help councils fund projects such as retrofitting social housing is imperative. Increasing funding provided through the Air Quality Grant Scheme alongside this would also assist local authorities in tackling community air pollution.
Logistically, the current bidding system is a convoluted process that is directly hurting Government targets. This should be replaced with block funding to combined authorities and other devolved bodies to receive the funds they need quickly. This approach should also be complemented with new land powers for councils, such as an undeveloped land tax, to force developers to use the land and build houses at the speed required while working with councils to appropriately retrofit houses.
Government targets are all well and good, but councils need adequate funds and a process that gives them a real chance at delivering them.
The opinions of guest authors are their own and do not necessarily represent those of SG Voice.