We are not yet proclaiming victory in our Green Light campaign to allow social landlords full access to £1.3 billion in annual funding to help tackle fuel poverty, but this week marks a big step forward.
More work to be done
The move by deputy prime minister Nick Clegg on Wednesday to slice a third tranche of funding from the £1.3 billion energy company obligation and make a total of £540 million available to tackle fuel poverty is very welcome. However, this will still not go far enough to make the green deal the success it could be.
As we report this week, social landlords are preparing to put their money where their mouths are and use their balance sheets to make the green deal a reality. Yet, although this scheme, co-ordinated by the Housing Finance Corporation, would make the green deal more affordable for social landlords and their tenants, its success depends on the full annual amount of ECO being open to social landlords. This is because they need these funds to bridge the gap for those properties where the so-called ‘golden rule’ - that the cost of the energy-efficiency works does not exceed
the value of the reduction in energy bills - does not work.
Clearly money is tight, but one area government could consider to ease the strain on ECO cash is the £9.03 billion currently being spent each year on housing 1.6 million people in private rented accommodation. Social landlords are expected to use the £13.3 billion they now receive annually in housing benefit to support borrowing to fund investment - why can’t the same approach be taken to private sector landlords? Why not make a condition of receiving local housing allowance that homes must meet certain energy performance criteria?
Private landlords should use their taxpayer-funded financial clout to make the green deal work, just as social landlords are planning to do. If this means some private landlords decide not to let homes to LHA recipients then so be it - why should the taxpayer subsidise substandard, energy-hungry homes? For an average of £108.54 a week in LHA others will take their place. As Mr Clegg said this week ‘lean times can be green times too’ - this is one clear way how.