Podcast: Carbon neutral? I don’t see how!

Scottish Housing News Podcast co-host Jimmy Black gives his take on today’s new episode in which Professor Douglas Robertson tells SHN… if we can’t fix leaky roofs in private flats, how will we ever make them carbon neutral? Meantime, Cllr Anne Rendall reflects on £4.4 million of faulty roofs, keeping rents down, and building new houses in Dundee.

Podcast: Carbon neutral? I don’t see how!

Professor Douglas Robertson chaired the Scottish Government’s Private Rented Sector Strategy Group which steered the reforms introduced by the Private Housing (Tenancies) (Scotland) Act 2016. He’s currently involved in Rent Better, a three year research programme funded by the Nationwide Foundation into private renting in Scotland. (Rent Better invites landlords and tenants to contribute their views).

Scottish Housing News asked Professor Robertson to chat with Kieran Findlay and Jimmy Black about the big issues in the private sector.

The conversation ranged widely. Private renting throws up many contradictions. The rents are high, yet tenants paying as much as 50% of their income on rents say they can cope. The worst conditions are in the private rented sector, yet many tenants, apparently, are satisfied with their accommodation.

In Ireland, it seems rent pressure zones don’t work because increases are limited to a percentage of the rent charged to the last tenant. Applicants know that asking about the previous rent means rejection, so they don’t. In Scotland Douglas says rent pressure zones “are designed not to work”.

There is evidence that more landlords than tenants are using the First Tier Tribunal system to resolve disputes, and landlords turn up with lawyers while tenants appear unrepresented. More access to mediation might help.

As for the great debate on making private rentals carbon neutral, Douglas says … “I don’t know how you achieve carbon neutral in these properties.” He thinks that if we can’t make them waterproof or leak proof now, how can we make them energy efficient? Communal solutions such as district heating might work, but Scotland’s mixed ownership tenements make that improbable.

Douglas’ view is that councils and housing associations need to produce more high quality homes for rent, and that can change the dynamics of the whole market.

“I think the climate crisis suggests that we need more collective forms of housing and not individual, and perhaps we are now seeing the limits to individual ownership of property, and that will have much wider repercussions.”

Councillor Anne Rendall is the Convener of Dundee City Council’s Neighbourhood Services Committee, which oversees the council’s housing functions. That puts her in the same position as housing association committee members, providing governance but letting the professionals get on with the work.

In November, the news broke that the council’s construction services division will have to do £4.4 million of roofing work again after failing to meet the latest standards. Anne speaks openly about the challenges for elected members when the professionals mess up.

The roofing story overshadowed the launch of Dundee’s Strategic Housing Investment Plan, and on the podcast Anne describes the council’s ambitions to build more houses, and looks to technology to solve the dilemmas thrown up by climate change.

For the full interviews with Prof Robertson and Councillor Rendall, listen to Scottish Housing News Podcast Episode 3 here or wherever you get your podcasts.

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