(Guest post by David Carr)
With a building programme of 1 million new homes, half of which are to be council houses, among Jeremy Corbyn’s 10 pledges there has been much discussion as to what that ought to look like. The pledge resonates with those struggling to have a place of their own. It addresses an acute need across the country and also kick starts an economic revival – starting with the construction sector and cascading down through other supporting industries and businesses. But what caveats should there be on new builds in the 21st century?
In July, Sevenoaks Labour Party Executive adopted and put forward a Momentum Swanley proposal: “Labour’s proposed national house building programme should be based on eco council housing where all properties have solar panels and other green technologies.” It is fundamental that the environment is considered in a huge building programme, but it should also be embraced and positively exploited. Photovoltaic cells (aka solar panels) have become more commonplace on our homes and buildings, wind turbines and rainwater harvesting systems less so. There is a golden, and very necessary, opportunity sitting before us in the construction of these 1 million homes.
The Tory mantra of “shop around for the best energy deals” is a glib phrase when addressing energy prices. The stranglehold of the ‘Big 6’ energy suppliers has seen a rise in energy costs with shareholders seemingly more important than the bill paying public. With the spike in energy use over the past few decades showing no sign of diminishing, green energy and technologies need to be at the forefront of any new building programmes. The household bills can be reduced, widening fuel poverty lessened or eradicated plus excess green energy can be sold back into the National Grid and, in the case of council housing, paid into the local authority coffers.
(Pic above: Roof mounted turbine)
Water Rates and Protection
Utilising rainwater harvesting systems more effectively along with flood prevention construction and landscaping measures will also help arrest the insurance premium hikes, make the new homes more robust to the challenges of climate change and reduce water rates too.
(Pic above: Rainwater (underground) collection and distribution system)
The green think-tank – Environmentum – was established to encourage the Labour Party to adopt a mass eco council house building and refurbishment programme. When challenged on the costs of these additional green measures, Nick Southgate, a spokesman for them said: “The initial outlay is recognised as adding more financial cost at the beginning; however, some of this will be recovered and our environment right now – and in the future – should not bear the brunt of our excesses. Fossil fuel needs must be reduced and clean green technologies embraced. Some of the possible avenues for financing this housing revolution include a Land Tax, for those corporations and landlords strategically sitting on land (such as supermarkets blocking rival competition); removing the cap on National Insurance and making it progressive; a tax on companies that have failed to mitigate against pollution and continue to pollute our environment, a second home tax comparable with that used in Iceland.”
Find out more here: https://swanleydistrictlabourparty.org/eco-council-housing-program/
(Feature pic: Freiburg, German the green eco-housing development)