Siân Berry: The Green Party will deliver a ‘green homes revolution’ to end the housing crisis

Renewable energy generation, mass home insulation and 150,000 social homes per year

A row of houses UK

It is unacceptable that it has become so wretchedly hard and even impossible to have a safe, affordable and warm place to call home. 

I’ve rented all my adult life and know too well what it’s like to be at the whims of landlords, deal with failed plumbing, and budget tightly for expected rent rises every year while wages struggle to keep up. 

My experience has informed my work over many years advocating hard for better housing. How to build and buy more of it to really grow back our council housing numbers, how to stop bad policies like knocking down estates or cutting housing benefit, and ultimately making sure that decent housing is experienced by everyone as the right that is, and not the current lottery. Greens don’t want to do a little bit here and there in the face of a housing crisis, we want to end it, and have a costed plan for doing so. 

We will create a huge new supply of affordable homes – including 150,000 new social homes a year. Our plans mean that all homes, new and renovated, will meet the highest possible standards for running costs, size and social needs.  

A green homes revolution will make sure nobody is forced to choose between heating or eating, a miserable legacy of this Conservative government. This work, on homes, as well as businesses and public buildings, will create quality jobs in all corners of the UK that have a real future as we make the necessary shift to a net zero carbon economy.

It’s a real Green New Deal for housing: reducing climate emissions, eliminating fuel poverty, and providing properly affordable housing in one programme which will strike out the miserable legacy of this Conservative government, and be so much more ambitious for our country than anything Labour or LibDems are offering.  

Our Green New Deal for housing will:

  • Finally allow local authorities to bring empty homes back into use and create a total of 150,000 new homes for social rent (council homes) a year, built to the Passivhaus or equivalent standard, while removing the Right to Buy that’s taken away so many council homes without replacement over decades.
  • Make sure nobody is forced to choose between heating or eating. Getting rid of fuel poverty and ensuring energy efficiency will be a national infrastructure priority.
  • Improve the insulation of every home in the UK that needs it.
  • Give funding to local authorities for new council homes based on the needs of their area. Local authorities will be incentivised to buy homes into their council housing stock, not just build. Newly built homes will be in the right place and planned with community involvement, with high quality designs that respect and enhance local architectural heritage. Homes should be beautiful and welcomed as vital additions to their communities.
  • Cut down on car dependency, with proper placement and design and improvements to transport that help other areas nearby, we can remove the need for many people to own cars for day-to-day life. New homes should come with pedestrian access to new local shops and schools, with sites chosen near local stations, and supported with high-frequency buses.
  • Roll out solar panels and other forms of renewable domestic electricity generation so that one million households a year can generate a proportion of the energy they use. The result? Ten million homes able to generate their own renewable energy by 2030. 
  • Replace polluting boilers for heating with modern heat pumps, as well as solar thermal, geothermal, and stored heat technologies.

The fact that our programme sounds ambitiously comprehensive only shows how lacking in ambition successive governments have been and how many gaping holes in achievement there are to fill. Some other countries have been building up these improvements for years, and the UK is stuck playing serious catch-up.

When I was working on the London Assembly, I was able to influence the Labour Mayor of London’s housing policies, questioning him ceaselessly and working with tenants’ groups to win a complete change in his rhetoric on rent controls This is what is possible with Greens in the room. 

We know what needs to be done to make housing better to respect all our rights to a safe place to call home, and Green MPs will be the loudest and most effective at arguing for it, pushing the next Labour government to think bigger and do better.

Siân Berry is a former co-leader of the Green Party of England and Wales and is the Green parliamentary candidate in Brighton Pavilion.

Left Foot Forward has reached out to spokespeople from Labour, the Liberal Democrats, the SNP, Plaid Cymru and the Green Party asking them to set out their general election commitments on a range of policy areas. This article is published as part of our series of articles from those spokespeople.

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