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Housing report ‘missed opportunity’

A major report into the private rental market should have looked more closely at energy efficiency and its potential impact on fuel poverty, according to the chairman of the Private Rented Sector Group at the Energy Efficiency Partnership for Homes (EEPH).

Dave Princep said he was disappointed by the report, The Private Rented Sector: Its Contribution and Potential, by Julie Rugg and David Rhodes from the University of York, as it did not directly refer to energy efficiency, fuel poverty or sustainability.

The Government is now preparing a response to the report, published last month, and it will inform the Housing Green Paper expected later in the year.

Mr Princep said: “The review was supposed to look at whether the private sector was fit for purpose, but it seemed to me like a missed opportunity for looking at the issues facing the private sector holistically – especially with fuel poverty and carbon reduction targets such high priorities at the moment.

“This report seemed an ideal opportunity to bring all the issues together instead of picking at just a couple of issues like energy performance certificates.”

Elizabeth Brogan, senior policy officer at the National Landlords Association, said the report had to focus on specific issues: “This was commissioned by the Department for Communities and Local Government (CLG) to develop policy on the private rental sector to be reflected by the green paper later this year.

“It was looking at the composition of the private rental sector, the impact of change on demand and supply of private rented housing and how to ensure a professionally managed sector. They were not asked to look specifically at energy efficiency.

“It is important to look at energy efficiency issues, but it would be unfair to put forward suggestions without looking at the social housing sector, too.”

Mr Princep said it was important to encourage landlords to see energy efficiency as integral to the management of properties and not just an additional cost. He said EEPH would submit representations to the Government once the Green Paper was published.

He said: “We need to find ways of overcoming that perception as energy efficiency can play a massive role in combating fuel poverty. Improving the condition of the properties can then reduce the carbon footprint.

“In many ways the drivers are there in tax incentives such as the Landlords Energy Savings Allowance – which is the best kept secret in the Treasury, EPCs and the Decent Homes standards, but it is about getting all that linked together and given the priority that is needed.”

Mrs Brogan accepted that more could be done to encourage energy efficiency amongst private landlords, but she said: “There is already a lot of work under way to improve the efficiency of the housing stock in general and private housing cannot be dealt with separately.
'We are working with groups like the Energy Saving Trust to get a way forward which works for both landlords and the energy efficiency sector.”

CLG declined to comment ahead of the publication of its Green Paper.