Friday, March 31, 2006

Homes from Empties - Greener and Cheaper

A very interesting editorial piece in this week’s Contract Journal.

In last Thursdays post “VAT on Building it's Not Over Yet” I raised the idea of harmonising VAT at level above 0%. CJ agree:

“It would hardly appear to be good economic sense to build more houses when so much of Britain’s housing stock is lying empty, but could be brought back into use with some upgrading – which would be a lot cheaper under a 5% VAT regime rather than 17.5%.”

They go on to point out that refurbishing empty homes may well be cheaper and more environmentally sustainable than building new:

London, where there are a whopping 91,000 empty homes. These would require an average of £12,000 spent on each to bring them up to a good standard of repair – much less than building new homes and a far easier, more sustainable way to provide affordable housing.
For a government so concerned with Kyoto and green issues, the fact that it's more cost-effective to demolish and rebuild public buildings such as schools, rather than upgrade them, must surely be at odds with its stated beliefs. And it can hardly be said to be sustainable, despite the fact that the new buildings meet current environmental standards.”

Good point. Of course I should add that returning empty homes to use is never going to be a replacement for building new, but it is surely an important contribution. And it’s good to see the argument being made in CJ.


  1. I am glad at last that somebody is saying that housebuilding is an environmental issue. 50% of Uk emissions are from housing and the government is turning a blind eye Your message is beginning to get through. Great blog keep it up!

  2. Dear Anonymous, thank you for that. It's good to hear that you think we are having an impact. To be fair to the government I think they do care about c02 emissions from housing, but they can't figure out how to translate their concern into effective policy without derailing their other programs like housing supply. Part of the problem is a fixation on new build as the solution to everything. Of course new houses should be as near to zero emission as we can make them, but even this would have minimal impact. Most of the housing that will be around in 50 years time already exists. The key to this problem is improvements to the existing housing stock. Making use of empty homes is one important part of this