Delivering the homes Britain needs whilst meeting our climate targets requires creativity
Delivering the homes Britain needs whilst meeting our climate targets will require creativity: making good use of the existing housing stock, particularly long-term empty homes, and insisting on the highest possible standards in new builds, says Nationwide.
Since its founding, Nationwide Building Society has been at the forefront of tackling the biggest challenges facing society, from helping people escape the Dickensian slums of Victorian Britain to rebuilding the country after World War II. The challenge we face today is to build the housing we need without a high environmental cost.
Delivering the homes Britain needs whilst meeting our climate targets will require creativity: making good use of the existing housing stock, particularly long-term empty homes, and insisting on the highest possible standards in new builds. Moreover, more must be done to ensure that those living in the private rented sector feel as secure in their homes as owner-occupiers.
Homes, and the energy they use, account for 15% of the UK’s carbon emissions. To address this, reforms should be made to property taxation and housebuilding to incentivise homeowners and buyers to improve the carbon efficiency of their homes. In the upcoming Budget, there are several changes that the Chancellor should consider:
- Commission an independent review of Council Tax: The government must commission an independent review of council tax to explore how linking taxation to a home’s energy efficiency can incentivise green home improvements. We believe this should be done in a revenue neutral way which doesn’t penalise the poorest households.
- Introduce Help to Green: Transition Help to Buy to a new Help to Green programme to deliver more EPC A-rated homes with taxpayer support – plus consider how other government housing schemes could promote energy efficiency.
- Incentivise Green Home Ownership: Call on lenders to incentivise green home ownership by following Nationwide’s lead and offering discounted rates for EPC A-rated new-build homes and green home improvements.
- Reintroduce the Empty Homes Grant Funding: Between 2010-15 the Empty Homes Grant Fund brought 9,044 homes back into use – also creating local jobs. With Britain needing to recruit and train 158,000 workers over the next five years in order to keep pace with demand, reinstating this grant would create homes and upskilling and training opportunities. We estimate that an investment of £185m would be a good starting point.
- Charge 500% Council Tax on long-term empty homes: At present, councils can charge twice the standard amount of Council Tax on a property if it has been left vacant for over two years. Councils should be compelled to charge 500% Council Tax on any property left vacant for over six months, unless it is being refurbished.
- Provide a Council Tax holiday for first time buyers of empty homes: In order to encourage the sale of empty homes, first-time buyers looking to purchase a long-term empty home should be given a three-year council tax holiday. They could be given the savings as an up-front loan from the council to fund the refurbishment.
As Britain’s biggest building society and second-largest mortgage lender, we recognise the important role that we can play in greening the country’s homes. We have set aside £1 billion for borrowers to reduce the carbon the footprint of their homes. We will be offering members a new range of green mortgages at preferential rates for buying a new-build EPC A-rated home, as well as offering preferential rates starting from 1% for the first two years when borrowing up to £25,000 – to kickstart green home improvements and retrofitting.
In the late 19th century when saving and buying a home was for the few, the idea of a mutual was the creative thinking that was needed to help ordinary, working people to lead a better life. The challenges we face today require the same type of innovative thinking.