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News in Focus: Green grants fail to improve homes

Home » Tradesman Insights » News in Focus: Green grants fail to improve homes

The UK’s Climate Change Committee has labelled the government’s efforts to make homes green a failure.

As many as 19 million homes need to improve their insulation to meet government targets. However, many homeowners are reluctant to make changes, as it’s too much hassle.

Predictably, cost is a major factor when it comes to making energy efficient improvements. Many families are struggling to pay bills, let alone fork out for construction work. The changes that are needed are simply out of reach for most.

However, lack of funds is not the only reason efforts are stalling. Flat owners are unwilling to sacrifice valuable space to install insulation.

Adding layers of insulation to interior walls shrinks the size of the room by several inches. A big ask for those who need to make every centimetre of space workable.

Green Homes Grant

Last year, the Heat and Buildings Strategy reported that focus should be on insulting walls and roof spaces before changes to heating systems are made. But the suggestions came after the government cancelled its £1.5 billion “green homes grant.”

The green homes grant set out to help people with energy improvement costs, however it failed to get much attention.

Money for major works, such as installing double glazed windows, or replacing heating systems, wasn’t accessible to those who needed it.

Up to £10,000 was available to cover two thirds of the cost, but there was a catch. Funds were divided into two categories, ‘primary’ and ‘secondary’ measures. Applicants were required to make primary improvements before having access to cash for secondary improvements. And upgrades to double-glazing, energy efficient doors, and hot water tanks were a secondary requirement.

This meant homeowners had to spend at least 50% of the £10,000 available on insulation (primary) to cover the cost of secondary measures, such as new windows.

For most property owners this was not cost effective, and the number of people who applied for the grant was well below expectations.

And landlords (who could also apply for the grant), saw little incentive to do so, as savings in energy bills would benefit tenants, not them. There was also the risk of properties having to be vacant during the construction process, which may have led to landlords losing out financially.

With energy bills going up 54% in April, homeowners are looking for ways to reduce energy costs. Improving EPC ratings can help do this, but it doesn’t come cheap. For most families, the window of opportunity to improve insulation and double-glazing has long gone. Disposable income is at an all time low, and the cost for labour and materials has put most consumers out of the market.

Support from the government is welcome when it works, but when it comes to making the UK more green, it has missed the mark. Short term, high investment solutions look good for targets but usually fail to make an impact in the real world.

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