Inquiry into ‘Low carbon housing: public demand for near-zero-carbon and Passivhaus standard homes
Gareth Bennett AM
Party: United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP)
Thanks, Chair. How much public demand do you think there will be for near-zero-carbon and Passivhaus standard homes? There has been some evidence that maybe prospective house buyers might not be that keen to buy those kinds of houses. So, I don’t know whether we can start off with David, and then each of you give your opinions on that.
I think some of Hugh’s submissions showed that, from a housing association perspective, the more energy-efficient homes are the ones that are much more sought after. As a housing association, and with previous housing associations I’ve worked for, people have increasingly become aware of what those potential energy costs are for those homes, and it is very much a factor. I think, in the wider sense and in the house purchasing side of affairs, it’s probably more about lack of awareness. Anecdotally, I would say that people say, ‘I’m not that interested’, because they’re not aware of what is on offer or what differences can be made to people. So, I think that lack of appetite is fed from not really knowing much about energy-efficient homes, but also very much from what is on offer out there. The bulk of what is built, not just in Wales but in the UK, is essentially what was built 20 plus years ago with some tweaks on it, and, until that changes, I don’t think people will be aware of exactly what their options are. It’ll also become much more important to people as energy prices continue to rise.
Just to add to that, when I saw this question in the stuff that was sent over in advance, I did query that perception of Government. I can’t talk on behalf of the private sector; I can’t talk on behalf of potential house buyers. I’m a young person; I don’t know anything about buying a house. [Laughter.] From a social housing perspective, we aren’t getting that message from our members. We’re not hearing that their tenants and prospective tenants don’t want to live in these houses and, in fact, research has showed that turnover has reduced in these better quality houses. So, from our members’ tenants’ perspective, I query where that perception had come from.
And I think, from a private sector perspective, all our research shows that people do like individual measures on homes in terms of things like solar panels. People do actually value them when they’re buying properties or renting them. We deal with 5 million people a year who are interested to improve energy efficiency. I think some of the challenges are that it’s still a bit difficult to do energy efficiency often, particularly in terms of refurbishment. So, a lot of what we need to do is to help smooth the path through advice and information. And I think also, to some extent, we’ve got a bit caught up on some of the messages around the environment and money, which may be the policy drivers, but, actually, for a lot of people we need to be getting across more strongly the message that these are just comfortable, nicer homes.