The levelling-up and regeneration bill: A chance for the government to show it is serious on greening our housing stock
Ensuring the UK housing stock is energy efficient will play a major role in ensuring the government reaches its net-zero targets. Baroness Hayman of Ullock, Shadow Spokesperson for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, sets out Labour’s vision on green housing and planning.
The House of Lords is currently grappling with the Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill, with a fair amount of debate concerned about affordable, quality housing and the planning system. The housing crisis is one of the biggest challenges facing our country, with a need to build 300,000 homes a year. But in a display of infinite wisdom, the government recently scrapped its target, ensuring access to affordable and social housing will only get worse. Decent quality homes are out of reach for more and more of our fellow citizens. Worse still, is the massive increase in homelessness.
The challenges of affordability, an ageing population, building safety, and the climate emergency all demand an alternative, progressive approach to housebuilding – one that also ensures good standards. At the same time, we must invest in the retrofitting of old building stock.
Labour’s approach to all of this follows in the tradition of the 1945 Attlee government, which built hundreds of thousands of homes; an approach that transformed people’s lives, lifting them out of overcrowded slums and into comfortable homes with indoor toilets and gardens.
Currently, home heating alone accounts for around 15% of the UK’s annual greenhouse gas emissions. This figure is particularly high due to us having some of the oldest and most poorly insulated housing stock in Europe. In short, many homes require a large amount of energy to stay warm.
Labour’s Warm Homes Plan will upgrade the energy efficiency of up to two million homes a year, while also investing in all of those that need it. With energy bills rising at a frighteningly rapid rate, families will be helped to save up to £500 a year. And, as part of our wider Green Prosperity Plan, we will provide a yearly, decade long investment of grants and loans to increase home energy efficiency and cut emissions. This is something that will also support the many thousands of extra jobs needed in the retrofitting industries, which will be needed in every region.
Labour’s Warm Homes Plan will upgrade the energy efficiency of up to two million homes a year, while also investing in all of those that need it
On planning, Labour would reverse the changes announced via specific amendments to the National Planning Policy Framework in December 2022. These changes mean local areas no longer have to plan to meet the long-term housing needs of local people, ultimately leading to fewer homes being built. But when building new homes, we also want to see quality of both place and build prioritised; and to ensure the housing and planning system plays a full part in addressing challenges such as net-zero, nature restoration, and public health.
An example of where this is happening is in London, where Labour’s Mayor, Sadiq Khan, has set ambitious targets for a zero-carbon city by 2030, and for all homes to be environmentally sustainable. These new standards will require that all developments of ten or more homes are not just net-zero carbon but also incorporate sustainable urban green spaces.
Next month, the House of Lords will start report stage of the Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill, during which we will press ministers for action to address the housing crisis. From the devolution of housing powers to reinstating targets and a new definition of affordability, Labour will give the government the opportunity to accept amendments that properly address some of the big housing and planning challenges facing our country. A failure to do so would suggest that the public need a chance to consider who else might better address those challenges.
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