Heat Our Homes, Not The Planet: Climate Justice Is Housing Justice
A Just Transition for Tenants
Housing and the built environment represents one of the biggest opportunities we have to organise to combat climate change. Working on these will have knock-on beneficial effects, whether that be on tenants’ energy bills, tenants’ health or new jobs. Currently, 40% of what we spend on health is due to our buildings. To hit net-zero by 2050, the UK construction industry has to double in size, which would create around 500,000 jobs. We do not need to live in fuel poverty or wait for a revolution in heating technology. The technology to make our homes green already exists.
Our homes need to be refurbished now. We need a just transition for our homes, which improves tenants’ health, economic situation and well being, whilst ensuring that tenants are not left with hikes in rents!
Points based rent controls that tie maximum rent to the quality, standard, and energy efficiency of the property will ensure that tenants do not bear the burden of environmental refurbishments whilst ensuring financial incentives for landlords to make green improvements to their properties.
Protections From Evictions
It is crucial that retrofitting does not result in ‘reno-victions’ either because tenants are priced out of their homes or because they are evicted to enable refurbishment. Landlords shouldn’t be able to force out tenants using green refurbishment as an excuse, or through punitive rent increases. Any plans to make rented housing more energy-efficient need to be tied to a point-based system of rent controls and greater protections for tenants.
As over 50% of the housing stock fails average energy efficiency standards, tenants throughout Scotland are left to face cold and damp homes, with ever-increasing bills. Domestic heating represents 16% of Scotland’s carbon emissions. Tenants need a bold plan of refurbishment able to improve the energy efficiency of their housing, cut fuel bills and contribute to reducing Scotland’s carbon footprint, and they need it now. Current deadlines must be pushed forwards.
Regulation and Enforcement
Today, it’s still OK to build or to rent out homes that trap people in fuel poverty and that are not fit for the future. Building regulations must guarantee healthy, safe homes and be subject to independent certification and verification of performance. The Repairing Standards need to provide clear descriptions of what is and isn't acceptable and needs updating, including taking into consideration EPC ratings, heating systems, and outright failure of repairing standards. The penalty systems for council, social and private landlords must be reviewed based on formal independent investigations.
New build regulation
New builds must be built in line with IPCC recommendations of “near-zero energy”, using a fabric-first approach that ensures insulation, better materials and better windows in place over high tech solutions. Heat pumps are no use if your windows don’t close. They must be Designed for Deconstruction to accelerate Scotland’s transition to a Circular Economy, and they must be accessible and genuinely affordable and built on safe terrain and with materials that do minimal environmental harm.
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