How does the new, much leaked housing strategy stack up from a sustainability perspective? Is there anything in it to make a sustainista happy, or just a bit less grumpy with the ‘Greenest Government,Ever’?
Recycling land that is currently underused is a very sustainable thing to do. Anything that means we build on less green field land is a very good thing. Greenfield land should be used for growing things, not putting buildings on. Local Authority land in particular will be brownfield land that is underused and in towns and cities and has a lot of potential to host sustainable developments.
Spending £50M on bringing disused homes back into use would be a very good thing if they were to be refurbished to a highly efficient standard first. Perhaps Ministers could use these empty homes as a preparation for the Green Deal and carry out works to them before releasing them back on the market. This would help to build up skills in the refurbishment market, pilot the Green Deal and improve the overall sustainability of the housing stock. The easiest time to refurbish properties is when they are empty.
Update: This is provided for in the Housing Strategy: ‘We are encouraging Private Registered Providers and private owners to take advantage of the Green Deal as they renovate properties to bring them back into use.‘
It is interesting to note that despite using the word sustainable or sustainability many times in the document, there are no standards applied to either the new homes to be built, or to the homes to be renovated.
The use of Right-to-Buy on the other hand, is a nonsense, in sustainability terms and in economic terms. In round terms we are going to sell off properties at less than half their market value to affordable housing tenants, and use this money to build new homes. Unfortunately the money gained will not be enough to maintain the affordable housing numbers so the amount of affordable housing stock will drop. This may win votes but it looks like an expensive way to do it.