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Repair existing house stock to improve health and save the planet

Publication Date: 4th November 2008

Subject: CIEH

Focus must be placed on repairing existing housing stock rather than building more homes, the CIEH has stated following the launch of analysis of house building plans by the Environmental Audit Committee.


The Greener Homes for the Future? report calls for a review of the Government’s target of three million homes by 2020 amid concerns about the use of greenbelt land and related carbon budgets.


CIEH President Stephen Battersby said:


“The CIEH welcomes the Environmental Audit Committee’s recommendations. Development on greenfield land must be reined in while so many existing homes fail to meet basic health and carbon efficiency standards.


“The present economic downturn in the housing market will mean that a significant amount of money earmarked for new homes will remain unspent.


“Poor housing is a major cause of ill health in the UK – the country’s statistics on winter deaths, falls and home insulation compare poorly with many of our European neighbours. There are now 6.8 million non Decent Homes and 4.2 million have an unacceptable health and safety hazard.


“Despite these figures and the Government’s commitment to reduce inequalities, funding to improve private homes which meet Decent Home standard has declined year on year.”


The Environmental Audit Committees report warns that greenfield sites could be developed unnecessarily unless the Government revises its house building targets in the economic downturn.


Among the recommendations in its report, the committee says:


  • Government should urgently review the basis of its target for building three million new homes by 2020
  • Targets to make all new homes zero carbon by 2016 should be used to speed up the development of community renewable energy sources for local neighbourhoods
  • Government should look urgently at introducing feed-in tariffs as a way of making zero carbon homes more financially attractive to developers
  • The Government should investigate the potential for the redevelopment of vacant building to create up to 1.2 million new homes
  • More aspects of the Code for Sustainable Homes - not just energy efficiency - should become mandatory for builders by 2010


The report can be read in full at: http://www.parliament.uk/eacom/.


A recent CIEH Commission on Housing Renewal and Public Health concluded that where rebuilding (rather than repair) was the preferred option, the construction industry needs the skills to ensure that the replacement houses actually can achieve the six star (carbon neutral) rating under the Government’s Code for Sustainable Homes.