'Housing developers must play part' in Edinburgh's 2030 carbon neutral pledge

PRIVATE housing developers will need to play their part in building sustainable properties in response to the Capital’s pledge to become carbon neutral by 2030, the council’s housing chief has warned.
Housing will play a big part in Edinburgh's pledge to become carbon neutral by 2030Housing will play a big part in Edinburgh's pledge to become carbon neutral by 2030
Housing will play a big part in Edinburgh's pledge to become carbon neutral by 2030

Officials are drawing up a strategy to make the authority’s own housing stock more sustainable and energy efficient – but calls have been made for providers of housing in the private rented sector, both existing properties and new-builds, to pull their weight.

In June, the council leader said that in order to meet the pledge for the Capital to become carbon neutral by 2030, “the future of gas in this city as the primary way we heat our homes will have to change significantly”. No alternatives have been identified by council chiefs to potentially replace burning gas to heat homes – but Passivhaus, ground source heating and district heating could all be considered.

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The council’s housing emissions account for around three percent of the city’s overall emissions.

Cllr Kate Campbell, the council’s housing, homelessness and fair work convener, said: “If we are going to put very high standards onto social and affordable housing, which we definitely need, we must also recognise that these standards have to be taken up by the private sector, by private developers and by home owners.

“If we accept these requirements on social housing, are we putting those requirements automatically onto the private sector – and how would we do that? I think we have to be really balanced about how we go about doing this.

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Here's how Edinburgh aims to go carbon neutral by 2030
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She added: “Already, housing standards, carbon emissions and energy efficiency is much higher for affordable housing than it is in the private sector. Council housing stock is at 67 per cent of energy performance at C or B – compared to owner occupier being at 47 per cent and private rented at 51 per cent.

“We can already see that we are doing better than the private sector. We need to set standards for ourselves that we can ask other people to adhere to because that’s how we can make a proper impact elsewhere.”

Tory group leader, Cllr Iain Whyte said: “What we are looking for here is a proper look in a strategic way at things.

“What we need is the officer research and background information and then see that in a planned way against the finances, going forward.”

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Instead, councillors agreed to tell officers to draw up a report on housing sustainability – while consultants have already been appointed to provide a “route map” for the council to achieve zero carbon targets across its existing and new-build homes.

“I understand there are ongoing discussions about what we as a council can do in best practice in cutting carbon emissions. The real challenge is going to be existing buildings. I welcome the change of heart from the Conservatives so I very much hope they will be supporting moves such as minimum efficiency standards for existing buildings at point of sale or rental, which is something the Scottish Government has been discussing for a while.

“It’s an absolute scandal that we still have fuel poverty in our city. People shouldn’t have to choose between heating and eating.”