Planning experts say party’s social housing plans are ‘undeliverable’

The Green Party’s manifesto has been greeted with a mixed reception from the built environment, with praise for its ambition on retrofit offset by questions around the achievability of its housing plans. 

Party co-leaders Carla Denyer and Adrian Ramsay launched their platform this morning at the Sussex country cricket ground in Hove this morning, promising a five-year programme of retrofit investments worth nearly £50bn in total. 


Source: Green Party

The Green Party launching its manifesto at a cricket ground in Hove

Louise Hutchins, head of policy at the UK Green Building Council, said the party had “understood the scale of long-term investment needed”. 

“So far, this election hasn’t been a ‘climate election’ despite the dire warnings from scientists,” she said. 

“This manifesto is a useful contribution to driving the issue up the agenda given the next government will be the last capable of bringing in the game-changing policies needed.” 

The policy, called the ‘Fairer, Greener Homes Guarantee’, would also see an end to competitive bidding for the Social Housing Decarbonisation Fund, better access to property-linked finance for owner occupiers and a right for tenants to insist that landlords access property-linked finance on their behalf. 

“Landlords will not need to provide any up-front finance, but they would have to repay the debt and will benefit from the improved value of the property,” the manifesto said. 

“Rent controls would prevent them passing repayments straight on to tenants”. 

Green Party’s Fairer, Greener Homes Guarantee 

£29bn over the next five years to insulate homes to EPC B standard or above, as part of a ten-year programme. £12bn of this will be to retrofit the social housing stock and £17bn as grants to retrofit privately owned homes to a similar standard.   

£4bn over the next five years to insulate other public buildings to a high standard. This is primarily for schools and hospitals, as part of a ten-year programme. £1bn will be made available as grants to retrofit private sector buildings to a similarly high standard.  

£9bn over the next five years for heating systems (e.g. heat pumps) for homes and other buildings.   

£7bn over the next five years to adapt homes to avoid over-heating in the hotter summers 

The Greens’ plans also include a promise to increase council and housing association provision of social homes to 150,000 new homes a year “as soon as possible”. It is not clear from the manifesto what specific tenure of social housing it would intend to deliver.

“Greens will push for these new homes to be delivered through various measures, including new build and refurbishment,” the manifesto said, adding that it would empower local authorities to bring empty homes back into use. 

Lawrence Turner, director of planning consultancy Boyer, said the lack of detail about how it would achieve this increase in new social homes was a “notable omission”. 

“The strategy of piecemeal development across local areas would pose challenges in planning and delivering the necessary infrastructure to support housing growth,” he said.  

“Additionally, a sporadic approach to housing development, will make the delivery of the targeted number of affordable homes impossible to achieve, especially when considering the need for developments on greenfield sites as well as urban land.” 

He concluded that “while the Green Party’s manifesto for housing affordability and sustainability presents ambitious goals, it remains undeliverable – and lacks any details on how these goals will be effectively achieved”.  

>> Also read: RIBA slams Conservative manifesto for lack of planning reforms

Jane Crichton, associate director at consultant Lanpro Services, complained at the lack of “measures to support greater delivery rates of other forms of housing – including much needed private housing – and targets for doing so”. 

The manifesto also included a pledge that elected Greens would campaign to change building regulations so all new homes meet Passivhaus, require house builders to include solar panels and low carbon heating systems such as heat pumps for all new homes, and upgrade the Minimum Energy Efficiency Standard to EPC C. 

Crichton said this was also “probably unrealistic” due to the costs and skilled workforce required.  

“It would impose an enormous burden on the development industry, and significantly slow delivery, without some well-planned measures to support the transition,” she said

The Green Party is also pledging to scrap the much debated right to buy policy, which allows council tenants to buy their homes with a discount.