Mike Leonard: don't forget construction.

‘More homes, less carbon’ is GBB manifesto

Published:  18 March, 2010

UK: Get Britain Building, the UK's largest coalition of companies and organisations associated with the built environment, is calling on the Government to put building at the very heart of the recovery agenda.

Modern Masonry Alliance director and campaign leader, Mike Leonard commented: "There is only one housing market and electors need homes –whether new or secondhand – though not everyone can afford one."

There are currently over 41 million people on waiting lists – one family in every 12. This is forecast to grow to five million after the General Election. "Increasing housing supply and improving existing homes are fundamental national requirements. They are as central to UK competitiveness, prosperity and wellbeing as health or education," he added.

"England alone requires over three million new homes by 2020 – private market and social housing. This means that we need to build at least 280 000 houses annually for the next 10 years or more to meet rising demand. Pent-up demand for homes – coupled with constrained supply – is the primary reason voters cannot now afford a place to live," said Mr Leonard.

With 27% of all carbon emissions coming from residential dwellings, the prize for the next Parliament has to be helping voters save energy. "New building already plays its part," Mr Leonard said. 

"Nearly 70% of housing in use in 2050 will have been built before year 2000. Politicians must do more to make it easier for landlords and homeowners to improve their properties.

"The UK needs more homes and less carbon during the next Parliament. Homebuilders, contractors and the building materials' supply chain are up for the challenge. The question is: how will the new Government get us there?"

The Get Britain Building campaign wants to see measures and incentives adopted to:

Complete existing housing projects and build more homes of all tenures.

Promote public-private partnerships that share the risks and benefits of housing delivery.

Identify and release a sufficient supply of permissioned developable land to meet local needs.

"We are not calling for 'big government'," said Mr Leonard. "We want a government commitment to create conditions in which the needs and aspirations of electors to live in warm, safe and decent homes are at the forefront of policy-making.

The availability of finance for businesses to operate, and individuals to take out mortgages, are both essential if the UK is to recover to build more homes and improve existing ones." The campaign wants to see measures and incentives adopted to:

Ease liquidity and foster a return to responsible lending to creditworthy borrowers.

Encourage banks in receipt of taxpayers' money to lend to projects to improve the nation's housing.

"The importance of investing to improve the condition and reduce emissions cannot be overstated. If the UK is to succeed in reducing carbon, policy-makers must pursue more determined and far-reaching actions. Worthy but low-level, soft options like subsidised loft insulation will not achieve the desired outcome. The campaign is seeking measures to:

Encourage the refurbishment of existing homes to save more energy.

Bring empty homes back into habitation to cut waiting lists.

Build on the successful lessons learned from the Decent Homes & Warm Front initiatives.

"We believe the single most important policy commitment for the new Government is to concentrate on 'consequential improvements' to de-carbonise existing housing. The easiest route to accomplish this would be to selectively reduce VAT on home improvements where specific actions to take carbon out of the building envelope are completed." Mr Leonard stated.

"A 5% VAT rate already exists for fuel and some energy-saving measures. Extending this to home improvement will encourage both private and public homeowners to invest in ways to use less energy, use energy more efficiently or obtain energy from renewable sources – at the same time as altering, extending or renovating homes.

"This is good policy because spending is targeted effectively, where intended, offering maximum encouragement to voters to invest to bring properties up to modern standards. Such investment will continue to pay dividends for generations to come, over the lifetime of the building."

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