David Attenborough asks ‘can we curb climate change?’
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Prime Minister Boris Johnson wants to slash carbon emissions from the nation’s 30 million homes as part of his “net zero” climate change pledge . Almost 20 million homeowners across England and Wales may be forced to take drastic action at a time when money is already desperately tight.
Owners of period properties and Victorian homes will be hardest hit as Johnson draws up new rules to make the nation’s ageing housing stock more energy efficient.
Our homes accounts for roughly a fifth of the nation’s carbon emissions, and the aim is to make them cleaner and greener, to meet the UK’s 2050 net zero carbon emissions target and combat climate change.
However, this could land homeowners with hefty bills running to “retrofit” older homes and bring them up to modern standards.
Better insulation and boilers makes sense as energy prices go through the roof but it could cost homeowners thousands of pounds they may not have.
Every UK property has to have an energy performance certificate (EPC), which rate energy efficiency on a scale from A to G, with A being most energy efficient.
Homeowners need to get a new EPC whenever they sell or rent out their property and they are valid for 10 years.
Now the Government wants every home to have a rating of at least C by 2035.
Of the UK’s 29 million homes a staggering 19 million currently have an EPC lower than C and may have to take action.
The average cost of moving from a D to a C rating is £6,155, research from mortgage broker Habito shows.
The cost depends on the home, with one-bed flats costing around £3,653 rising to a staggering £12,540 for larger detached family homes.
This is a price many will simply be unable to afford.
For homeowners, there is no legal requirement to have a minimum EPC rating, but experts say the Government could exert pressure through mortgage lenders, by forcing them to target lending on more efficient homes.
Hargreaves Lansdown senior personal finance analyst Sarah Coles warned: “If you are living in a Victorian semi with a rating of band E, you may well struggle to find a lender offering a competitive mortgage.
“When you come to sell, this could mean buyers are thinner on the ground, which is likely to depress the price.”
Buy-to-let landlords will come under greater pressure. Landlords need a minimum EPC of E to let a property today, which may be hiked to C for all new rental tenancies by April 2025, and 2028 for existing tenancies.
Homeowners can improve their EPC rating by installing loft, underfloor or cavity wall insulation, double or triple-glazed windows, draught proofing and hot water tank insulation.
This will save them money in the longer run, said Scott Clay, distribution director at specialist lender Together.
Together’s research found that homeowners in older properties would be willing to spend an average of £5,480 to implement enough eco-changes to make a real difference. “This rules out bigger changes such as heat pump installation, which can cost as much as £18,000.”
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Two in five Britons have never even heard of an EPC, while just one in six has any idea of their home’s rating.
Habito chief executive Daniel Hegarty said sustainability is important but the UK’s retrofitting bill should not just fall on the shoulders of hard-pressed homeowners. “It could leave people trapped in homes with unfavourable EPC ratings.”
While retrofitting a property may increase its value, the work may not pay for itself, Vadim Toader, chief executive at Proportunity, warned. “Our data shows that a higher EPC rating can add an average of 8 percent to a home’s value. It’s not worth spending more than that.”
Robert Barnard Weston, director of The Association of Sustainability Practitioners, said the Government should consider giving mortgage firms incentives to lend up to £25,000 to retrofit a home to zero carbon.
“Repayments might cost the average homeowner £100 a month, but that could be reclaimed from the savings on utility bills once the retrofit had been achieved.”
For those who couldn’t afford it, there could be a Government-backed grant scheme, he suggested.
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