Delivering decent homes for the future

On Monday afternoon we attended an online event chaired by Lord Best. The All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) consists of MPs and members of the House of Lords, and offers an opportunity for policy makers to exchange views and thoughts with those who have their hands on the levers of power.

Improving public and private housing

This fast moving session featured short presentations from civil servants at the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) and Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DHULC) as well as an academic, an energy supplier and a large social housing provider. The primary consideration was the perceived opportunity that the Decent Homes Standard Review presents to improve the standard of both public and private housing.

Rather than giving a ‘blow by blow’ account of what was said, it is perhaps worth reporting on the overall impression and lessons that could be taken from attendance.

The focus is on energy performance

It is clear that politicians are willing to table stricter legislation to force landlords into improving rented property. The current focus is energy performance, although every avenue of discussion usually ends up considering dampness and mould growth.

What is staggering to me is the disconnect that exists between the decision makers and their close advisors, and the realities of delivery. The divergent thoughts from questioners and contributors who claim to be experts in moisture and ventilation is bewildering. It is no wonder the legislators make mistakes when the facts are so contested.

Change is coming, but what will the consequences be?

What we can tell you is that change is coming and coming with rude haste. The consequences of energy efficiency measures in existing dwellings will hit us all, not just landlords and tenants.

Some buildings may get dryer and healthier, but a significant number won’t. Currently, there are a few noisy people shouting into the wind, but soon a great deal more people with real problems will need real and effective help. At that point, there will be significant additional value in expertise, experience and knowledge.

Back in the day as an 18 year old new to the building preservation industry, I once asked my boss what would we do when we had fixed the damp problems in these houses? A naïve question that was met with a simple answer, “as long as it rains son, you will have a job if you know about damp”. He was right, but if I were to be asked that question today I might say, “as long as people live in houses, fail to look after them and try to push them beyond their design limits, you will all stay very busy and you will never stop learning.”

As I said, the value in expertise, experience and knowledge will be significant…

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