By Alice Russell, Account Executive
Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rishi Sunak’s, Summer Economic Update covered a lot of issues on everyone’s minds from the furlough scheme, to the creation of jobs and the cutting of stamp duty. One point that has caught the attention of many homeowners is the £2 billion promised for the ‘Green Homes Grant’.
In his update, Mr Sunak said that from September, homeowners and landlords will be able to apply for vouchers, to make their homes ‘more energy efficient’ which will also aid in the government’s mission to create more jobs. Some of the improvements that the vouchers can be spent on include insultation, more efficient boilers and heat pumps. The grants will cover at least two thirds of the cost (£5,000 per household and £10,000 for low income households). This is alongside the £1 billion of funding to be released to improve the energy efficiency of public sector buildings. Research has shown that more than half of households are planning on taking the government up on their offer when it becomes available, which is a positive start.
Alongside the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, the climate crisis remains a real global threat and the Green Homes Grant is a step in the right direction to help meet the net-zero carbon emissions target by 2050. The Green Homes Grant scheme has been welcomed by business groups and industry leaders who recognise that this signals an importance step towards ‘building back better and greener’, as well as showing a vote of confidence from the government in builders across the country.
However, there are concerns that the scheme will not have such positive, long-lasting effects. Some within the housebuilding and renovating sector have raised concerns about the possibility of poorly fitted insulation and the lack of assurance that these home improvements will be done properly to have the desired effects. Dr Chris Roberts, assistant lecturer at Birmingham City University’s School of the Built Environment argues that the scheme has put too much focus on job creation rather than environmental concerns or addressing fuel poverty. He also raises the issue of the negative impact that installation of double glazing can have on older homes and whether there will be any financial assistance for future work if required. This then begs the questions, if homeowners get work done using the scheme, what happens if the work is not up to standard and starts failing a few months down the line – who covers the repair costs? The government wants the £2 billion fund spent by the end of next March, but there are concerns over whether the insultation industry, which has shrunk, can cope with the influx of new work and whether it will be prepared by September. These are questions that will need to be answered by the government if people are going to make use of the scheme.
After the failure of the Green Deal, launched in 2013, all eyes will be on the government to see if the Green Homes Grant goes the same way. Although the loan element of the Green Deal has been scrapped for this initiative, other issues came from the complicated application form and the low numbers of households that actually applied. Whether these issues re-appear is something we will not be able to comment on until the scheme goes live in September.
This Green Homes Grant is a step in the right direction, and it is positive to see that the government is implementing measures to tackle both the climate crisis and employment. However, there is still a lot to be desired in terms of detail and effectiveness. We can only hope that by the time the scheme is implemented in September, homeowners will be offered a better understanding of what the scheme really means for them and that by next year we’ll have seen an increase in environmentally friendly homes.