As a union, Living Rent recognises the urgency and legitimacy of climate change, and the importance of human action and systemic change in building a sustainable future. As a union, we commit to fight for the provision of high quality, green and affordable housing for all and to fight for climate justice across our campaigns.
The statement below outlines our position regarding climate change, and what we commit to doing in order to face collectively this global threat.
As a union, we recognise that man-made climate change is one of the biggest crises the world is currently facing. In Scotland, 16% of emissions are linked to domestic heating and energy bills, highlighting the need for a focus on housing and the quality of our dwellings. We also recognise that climate change is largely a product of our economic system, and that the potential of individual and isolated action is limited. Finally, we recognise that the impacts of climate change are felt globally, with many in the world already at the sharp end of the climate crisis.
We hold that a genuinely just transition to a sustainable future must focus on systemic change in our economy and society. In order for this change to be in the interest of the many and not the few, we need to build community power that actively centres local decision-making and autonomy. With consideration to the above, it is imperative that as a union we include climate issues in our campaigning and organising, and that we stand in international solidarity with other groups around the world fighting climate change.
We recognise that changes need to be made to all housing in order to reduce emissions. Many tenants in Scotland, both in private, public and social housing, live in poorly maintained housing with mould, damp and drafts, as well as inadequate ventilation, heating and insulation. Improving the quality and energy efficiency of homes (through refurbishing existing ones and implementing ambitious building standards) will both decrease the carbon footprint of housing and improve tenants’ circumstances; reduced energy bills will lift households out of fuel poverty, and housing upgrades will help tackle many health issues in Scotland caused by poor housing - a net gain for already overstretched NHS services.
In a fair transition, these measures can sustain local jobs, ensure a sustainable, and high quality housing stock able to withstand the challenges of climate change and provide quality homes for people. However, in a housing system already unaffordable for many the costs for housing improvements cannot fall on tenants and communities, requiring proper rent controls, strict regulation on short term lets and holiday homes, and protection against renovictions and clear and strong power of enforcement from local authorities.
We recognise that the current housing system is already inaccessible to many people in Scotland, whether because they experience homelessness, housing insecurity, unsafe living conditions, are being priced out, or are forced to live in unsuitable and unaffordable housing. The lack of genuinely affordable housing risks becoming greater as more people, both locally, nationally and internationally, are forced to move out of their homes due to climate catastrophes.
We believe that the amount of accessible and affordable homes needs to greatly increase, in order for everyone to have access to a safe, quality and affordable home built in an appropriate place, for example not on flood plains. We will fight for everyone’s equal access to housing, which means building more housing, alongwith regulating second homes, holidays homes and crucially the rental market and its prices.
QUALITY OF LIFE
We recognise a green transition in Scotland as an opportunity to improve the material conditions in communities by making our homes and other infrastructure more efficient and sustainable. Along with improved housing, this needs to include accessible and affordable local transport systems, opportunities for local employment and education, well maintained and accessible recycling points, reliable and sustainable local food networks, access to green space, and community-oriented use of vacant land.
We believe that such improvements need to be driven by and accountable to communities, to ensure that they reflect our needs and priorities. Climate change demands a change in our ways of life, and we need the proper infrastructure to accompany these changes and democratic accountability to ensure no community is left behind.
As a union, we commit:
Firstly, to actively include concerns around climate change in our campaigns and organising, and to fight for a fair, sustainable and genuinely affordable housing system that prevents further housing-related contributions to climate change.
Secondly, to ensure that our members’ interests are at the heart of any discussion about a greener housing system. We will not accept that the cost of any required upgrades or retrofittings fall on tenants or that tenants be evicted following rising rents, and we will fight to ensure that individual households and communities are consulted and approve of any changes to their homes or lived environments.
Thirdly, to continuously highlight the pitfalls of and organise against the narrative that individual lifestyle changes are the only and best available ways to address climate change. We believe that structural changes and regulations are required, and will fight to hold companies, landlords and parliament accountable to deliver changes that put people and climate first.
Finally, to continue our efforts to push for an affordable, high-quality and green housing system, organised outwith capitalist market directives. Any green transition must put people over profit, and community interests over the interests of real estate development.