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“Coronavirus pandemic threatens UK housing emissions crisis, report warns”

We're calling for urgent government action to address the UK housing emissions crisis.

11 November 2020

A new report released today by the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) has warned that changes in behaviour brought about by the coronavirus pandemic will turbocharge the UK housing emissions crisis without urgent government action.

The surge in working from home caused by the coronavirus pandemic is expected to generate a shift in the balance of what contributes to emissions across the economy, with a dramatic increase in the proportion of total emissions that come from housing stock.

The UK has one of the most inefficient housing stocks in Europe, and the RIBA’s report, entitled ‘Greener Homes’, urges the government to make UK homes more energy efficient by bringing forward a National Retrofit Strategy.

This includes the introduction of sliding scale of stamp duty, capped at £25,000, with the most energy efficient homes accruing significantly less tax than the least.

If a tax rebate was available for a period after purchase, homeowners would also be encouraged to undertake their own energy efficiency improvements such as insultaing lofts and walls; draught proofing doors, windows and floors; fitting double or triple glazing; and choosing smarter heating systems and appliances.

In addition to stamp duty amendments, the RIBA recommends that the National Retrofit Strategy includes:

  • A commitment to front-load money that the Government is committed to spending on energy efficiency over the next decade so that it is spent over the course of this Parliament (until mid-2024), in order to address shift in balance of emissions and assist with the coronavirus economic recovery (2);
  • Better targeting of existing income support payments including the Warm Homes Discount and the Winter Fuel Payment, which are presently poorly targeted on the most fuel poor (3);
  • A clear long-term timeline for increasing the Minimum Energy Efficiency Standards (MEES) for both the private and social rented sectors;
  • Stronger standards for new homes;
  • More information and regulation of the quality of building work carried out by tradespeople making energy efficiency improvements.

RIBA President, Alan Jones, said:

“When it comes to energy efficiency, our homes are fundamentally below the mark. Our housing stock sits shamefully behind most European neighbours, and this will only be made more obvious by the changes in working habits brought about by the Covid-19 pandemic.

We need urgent government action – a National Retrofit Strategy – with front-loaded spending that would double as a fiscal stimulus and a new stamp duty policy to encourage homeowners to think twice about opting for sub-standard homes.

As the Committee on Climate Change has made clear, we need the near total elimination of housing stock emissions to reach net zero by 2050. It’s quite clear we need to start now.”

The report will form part of a submission by the RIBA to Her Majesty’s Treasury that are currently reviewing how the public finances can be managed to support the transition to net zero.

Read the full report here.


  1. Press contact: or +44 (0) 20 7307 3811.
  2. Investment in energy efficiency is seen to have a series of concomitant economic benefits, such as job creation and increased household disposable income from lower energy bills.
  3. The report does suggest, however, that changes to the benefit system should wait until the UK has begun to significantly recovery from the current economic crisis, so as to avoid the most vulnerable losing out.
  4. Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) is a global professional membership body that serves its members and society in order to deliver better buildings and places, stronger communities and a sustainable environment. Follow @RIBA on Twitter for regular updates.

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