The Dumb Claim that Meeting Housing Needs will blow our Carbon Budget

Guardian

Silliest Avocado Nimby Claim yet

Target of 300,000 new homes a year not sustainable, finds researchers, with negative biodiversity and climate impacts

England would use up the entirety of its 1.5C carbon budget on housing alone if the government sticks to its pledge to build 300,000 homes a year, according to a new study.

The building of new homes under a business as usual scenario, coupled with current trends on making existing homes more efficient, would mean the housing system would use up 104% of the country’s cumulative carbon budget by 2050.

Radically retrofitting existing houses, cutting the number of second homes, stopping people from buying houses as financial investments and making people live in smaller buildings would be more sustainable ways to address the housing crisis, the paper says.

A carbon budget is the cumulative amount of emissions a country can emit over a specific period. England’s 1.5C budget means restricting total emissions to 2.5 gigatonnes of CO2 between 2022 and 2050 say the researchers, who did not look at how this compares in Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland, but they believe it is likely to be a similar picture.

“In the long run, we argue that England can’t go on building new houses forever, and needs to start thinking about better and more systematic solutions as to how we are going to house everyone within our environmental limits,” said lead researcher Dr Sophus zu Ermgassen, from the Durrell Institute of Conservation and Ecology at the University of Kent.

The paper, published in Ecological Economics, is the first to comprehensively analyse the impact of the government’s response to the housing crisis on national carbon and biodiversity goals. The researchers write: “Secure housing is a fundamental human right. However, potential conflicts between housing and sustainability objectives remain under-researched.”

They looked at two existing models, one for evaluating the emissions needed to run UK houses, and the other, emissions from constructing new housing. The figures come from looking at decarbonising trends of housing between 1990 and 2019, meaning housing is set to be 50% more efficient by 2050.

For England, if current trends continue, 92% of emissions will come from existing housing, and 12% from the emissions of building and running new houses, the study finds. There are about 25m dwellings in England, and the amount of emissions from existing homes is high because large parts of the housing stock are prewar, and more challenging to insulate. For example, half of homes built between 1919 and 1930 have uninsulated solid walls which account for almost half of heat loss.

The study has huge methodological errors, so large the whole Nimby Hypothesis falls apart.

Firstly it doesnt look at opportunity costs i.e. where people who move into new houses would otherwise live. The study seems to assume new house dwellers come from mars Many will move into the existing stock further away from where they work balooning carbon costs from transport.

Secondly many will be concealed household, living in the existing stock, as existing stock is so much more efficient than current, and as new build embodies energy costs can be radically reduced (through more use of cross laminated timber instead of brick and concrete, and use of zero carbon concrete) and above all as 97% of housing will be existing housing forcing people to stay in existing housing will increase emissions – a simple model will show through linear algebra that forcing people to stay in cold damp old housing expensive to upgrade will be more expensive and less effective than building more low embodied energy new homes combined with efforts to upgrade the category of most innefficient older homes which are economic to upgrade (mostly stock with cavity walls).

The problem is the ideological Advocado Nimby philosophy of the authors. Growth is evil and people have to accept a sackcloth and ashes forced to consume less if they are not of the gneration that got on the property ladder. Lets hope that cllrs dont fall for this rubbish.