Blog: Why existing homes matter just as much as building new ones

In advance of an Existing Homes Alliance Scotland parliamentary reception on May 29, CIH Scotland’s policy and practice manager Ashley Campbell provides an update on the work of the group.

CIH Scotland is one of the founding members of the Existing Homes Alliance Scotland (ExHAS) a coalition of housing, environmental, fuel poverty and industry organisations calling for urgent action to improve the condition of Scotland’s existing housing stock, ensuring that our homes are fit for the 21st century.

Improvements in building standards and technology mean that new homes are more efficient and cost less to heat – but most of us live in existing homes. There are around 2.6 million homes in Scotland. Last year, just over 17,000 new homes were built across all tenures, less than 1% of the total housing stock. The Scottish House Condition Survey shows that 41% of homes built before 1945 are in urgent disrepair compared to 27% built after 1945.

Poor quality, damp and draughty homes are bad for people’s physical health and having to spend more money on fuel might mean having to cut back on other essentials like food and rent. Despite ambitious targets and significant investment, over 30% of households in Scotland are still living in fuel poverty.

We need to do more to maintain and improve our existing homes so that everyone can live in a warm, safe home.

What is ExHAS campaigning for?

The Scottish Government has made some promising commitments, designating energy efficiency as a National Infrastructure Priority (NIP) and announcing the introduction of a Warm Homes Bill expected this summer. ExHAS wants the Scottish Government to match these announcements with ambitious targets, regulations and funding to support meaningful changes.

The Warm Homes Bill should ensure that energy demand is reduced and investment in energy efficiency, renewables and low carbon heating is encouraged. It should create a framework to support industry, protect consumers and cut energy bills. The Warm Homes Bill should cover:

Fuel poverty

  • Renewed definition and target to eradicate fuel poverty;
  • Actions and milestones relating to all four drivers of fuel poverty; and
  • Provisions for accountability, scrutiny, monitoring, reporting and review of the Fuel Poverty Strategy.
  • Scottish Energy Efficiency Programme (SEEP)

    • Statutory framework including targets and scrutiny provisions;
    • Establishment of an independent body responsible for overseeing the delivery of SEEP;
    • Duty on local authorities to produce Local Heat and Energy Efficiency Strategies; and
    • Review of existing legislation relating to the potential for tax incentives for energy efficient properties.
    • Regulation

      • Provisions to lay out timeframe for review of barriers to energy performance improvements in common works in tenements and flats (including consideration of EPCs);
      • Provisions to lay out timeframe for review of building regulations with remit to include existing and new buildings; and
      • Review of relevant regulatory frameworks (e.g. building regulations, planning guidance, condition standards) to ensure consistency in supporting and encouraging highly energy efficient and low carbon homes.
      • ExHAS also supports the introduction of minimum energy efficiency standards across all tenures, with an overall goal for the vast majority of homes (where technically feasible and appropriate) to reach EPC band C by 2025. In order to achieve this, regulations must be accompanied by a long term, well funded programme of advice, support and incentives to encourage compliance.

        Find out more

        You can find out more about ExHAS asks for the Warm Homes Bill and wider regulation of energy efficiency online.

        ExHAS is organising a Parliamentary reception to discuss these issues on May 29. CIH members are welcome to attend. You can find more details and book a place through Eventbrite.

        This blog was originally published on the CIH Scotland website.

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