‘Key opportunities missed’ in Scottish Budget

Serious concerns have been raised about the “lack of financial certainty” for the housing sector beyond March 2021.

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Funding allocations for affordable housing, energy efficiency and measures to tackle poverty in Scotland have been outlined under proposals announced in the Draft Scottish Budget.

As outlined, the budget for the Affordable Housing Supply Programme will increase to £843m and spending to cut fuel poverty and improve energy efficiency will rise from £119.6m to £137.1m.

However, the proposed £137m increases only slightly from last year’s energy budget of £119m – despite the government setting out net-zero carbon targets by 2045.

On the measures, the Existing Homes Alliance is calling for a doubling of investment from 2019/20 – to £240m – for warm, affordable to heat and low carbon homes – to meet Scotland’s ambitious climate and fuel poverty targets.

Last year the Scottish Government passed new statutory targets to reduce fuel poverty as far as possible by 2040 and to achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2045.

As of 2019, 25% of households were still living in fuel poverty and housing accounted for 15% of direct climate warming emissions.

The heat has since been on the Scottish Government, with Scottish Land & Estates (SLE) has accused them of lacking “guidance and leadership” on the incoming changes to home energy efficiency – putting unnecessary pressure on Scotland’s private rental sector.

The Scottish Federation of Housing Associations (SFHA) said that it’s now vital that funding is increased for social landlords so they can continue to help the government to meet its ambitious fuel poverty targets.

Sally Thomas, CEO of SFHA said: “Overall, we are disappointed with today’s Draft Budget. The small increase in energy efficiency funding is only a fraction of what is needed – as part of the Existing Homes Alliance we had called for it to be doubled.”

She added: “We are pleased to see that the Scottish Government is sustaining funding for the final year of the Affordable Housing Supply Programme, which will be essential to meeting the 50,000 homes target as well as to provide a better platform to continue the programme after this parliament ends.

“We now look forward to the government confirming funding plans for post-2021. Not only is this vital in order to keep building the homes that the people of Scotland need but also to meet key priorities such as ending homelessness and tackling climate change through building energy efficient housing.”

But CIH Scotland still have “serious concerns” about the lack of financial certainty for the housing sector beyond March 2021.

“If the Scottish Government does not commit to continuing the Affordable Housing Supply Programme, local authorities and housing associations simply cannot build the homes we know we need and we risk losing the progress we’ve made to date”, said Callum Chomczuk, National Director of CIH Scotland.

“The Scottish Government also announced a slight increase in funding for energy efficiency measures but in the face of a climate emergency, a slight increase is not enough.

“The Scottish Government set ambitious statutory targets to tackle fuel poverty by 2040 and reach net-zero carbon by 2045.

“If these targets are to be met, we need to see urgent action now, matched by the funding needed to ensure our homes are warm, energy efficient and fit for the future”, he added.

Lori McElroy, Chair of the Existing Homes Alliance said that while the allocation for energy efficiency is welcome, it’s still over £100m less than the £240m needed to bring housing emissions into line with climate ambitions.

“Investing in the energy efficiency of our homes will have far reaching benefits beyond reducing fuel poverty and carbon emissions”, she said.

“It will improve health and wellbeing, saving money for the NHS, create jobs across Scotland and ensure that our homes are fit for a zero-carbon future.

“Failure to invest properly in energy efficiency will drive up the cost of heat decarbonisation, and risk undermining efforts to alleviate fuel poverty.”

She added that at the current level of improvement, it will take 25 years for the vast majority of homes to reach a standard of EPC band C, when they should be striving for zero carbon by that date.

“The Alliance has set out how a doubling of the energy efficiency and fuel poverty budgets would deliver the necessary pace of change that is proportionate to tackling the climate emergency.

“There are no technological, legal or structural barriers to scaling up.

“Today’s small increase in the energy efficiency and fuel poverty budget is welcome but it misses a critical opportunity to capitalise on existing programmes to reduce fuel poverty and respond to the climate emergency before it is too late”, McElroy concluded.

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