Below is a summary of an article written by Green Councillor Siriol Hugh-Jones and published in Sussex Bylines on 29th January 2021
Much has been said about the benefits of ‘retrofitting’ – the process by which old, draughty homes are brought up to standard and made more energy-efficient. This year Brighton & Hove’s Housing Committee unanimously approved proposals for a detailed, costed retrofitting plan for existing council homes. To pay for the future work, they want to use the income from existing council homes already allocated for improvements to housing stock, as well as creating an additional £4m million reserve fund from that same income. They will also look to borrow from the Public Works Loans Board.
Local councils are uniquely placed to stimulate the growth of local skills, and supply chains – benefitting the wider community as well as council tenants and leaseholders. This applies both to retrofitting and new build. Improved energy efficiency will mean much lower electricity and heating bills for residents, enabling them to stay warmer and thus healthier.
Plans for warmer homes could lead to a surge in job opportunities. In Brighton and Hove, almost 800 new jobs could be created in the energy efficiency sector alone by 2030, based on current demand.
As well as creating jobs and improving people’s health, retrofitting is crucial to tackling climate change: carbon emissions from all domestic properties contribute 40% of Brighton & Hove’s total emissions, with approximately 11% of these emissions (from domestic properties) coming from the 11,500 council housing tenants and 2,500 leaseholders.
Brighton & Hove Council is going further and addressing the emissions from new homes the council builds : it has just approved a draft new-build housing sustainability policy. This has been developed to follow best practice for reducing carbon emissions in construction.
Siriol Hugh-Jones is a Green Party councillor elected in 2019 and is joint chair of the council’s housing committee. She has a particular interest in retrofitting and energy efficiency and chairs the zero carbon (new homes) working group.