How we encourage, coerce or insist that homeowners improve their homes to help the UK meet our carbon targets is an issue that seems to be gaining pace with politicians and those of us lobbying them. All three parties have committed to a variety of loans and ways of paying so that we make improvements to our homes which currently account for 28% of the UK’s total carbon emissions. And yet no party seems to be proposing enough to tackle the situation on a large scale. The RIBA, in our manifesto, has called for the next Government to retrofit 4 million homes within the lifetime of the next parliament. The latest Government announcement last week appears to say it will meet that commitment by eco-fitting seven million homes by 2020. It’s clear that to get people to take up any kind of retrofit offer however, we will need a combination of carrot and stick.
The ‘Cut the VAT’ coalition (RIBA is a member) proposes a cut in VAT on home maintenance and repair to 5%. The coalition asserts that by lowering VAT, more homeowners will take up the offer of eco-fitting their homes particularly if at the same time they are putting in a new kitchen or bathroom. A new report commissioned by the coalition reports that a cut in VAT would create more than 24,000 jobs in the construction sector, as well as an extra 31,000 other new jobs in the wider economy in 2010 alone and contribute more than £1.4 billion to the UK economy in 2010, rising to £17 billion by 2019. So the drop in VAT could be the carrot. But there might need to be a few sticks as well. This week the UK Green Buildings Council called for mandating for higher levels of energy efficiency for homeowners carrying out extensions (consequential improvements) and for properties to be upgraded relating to their Energy Performance Certificates. Both measures are certainly the stick.
The RIBA is hosting a hustings in London on 6 April, come and pose your questions to the architecture spokespeople of the three main political parties. More details.