Let’s talk about housing again. Sorry to keep boring on about it, but it remains one of the most pressing issues facing the nation whether or not the Government is willing or able to pass urgently-needed planning reform.
Specifically, let’s have a look at this week’s media reports that ministers are planning to directly thrust a big chunk of the cost of hitting onto Net Zero. From the Times:
“Home buyers face having to improve the energy efficiency of their new properties under the terms of their mortgage as part of government plans to decarbonise Britain’s housing stock. Mortgage lenders will have to disclose the energy efficiency of homes they lend money for and set themselves targets to improve the insulation of buildings in their portfolio.”
The Government version of this story is that it could direct “up to £90 billion” of private investment in green renovations, supporting hundreds of thousands of jobs in the process. Which is nice.
But from the looks of it, the only way this ‘private investment’ materialises is if home-buyer commit their own money (or a loan from the bank, which amounts to the same thing) on expensive renovations and retrofitting, on top of the already exorbitant and deeply socially damaging cost of buying a home in the first place. How are we supposed to square this with the party’s need to pretend that the housing crisis is a demand problem that can be fixed by making it easier for people to access the necessary (borrowed) funds?
(All this is notwithstanding the fact that, in terms of value for money, retrofitting old properties seems unlikely to be nearly as effective as just building modern, environmentally-conscious properties. If we’re going to pretend that thousands of pounds of extra costs for households are ‘investment’, why not actually invest in new stock?)
This is by no means the first time the Government’s various slogans have come adrift from its actual policies. It’s hard to square warm words about ‘saving the Union’ with cutting Scottish troop numbers in half, for example. But historically the Conservatives have at least managed to back their demand-side story with various schemes to make it easier for some people to buy homes. Actively making it more difficult is a new, and most unwelcome, development.