Committee warned of potential “unintended consequences” from retrofitting

Source: Greennews.ie

17 June 2021

Local areas should not be inadvertently gentrified as retrofitting is rolled out, the Committee on Budgetary Oversight was told this morning.

The Executive Manager of TASC Climate Justice Centre, Seán McCabe, advised the Committee to be careful of “unintended consequences” of retrofitting rented properties.

Due to the use of the HAP scheme, whereby local housing authorities assist tenants with rent payments, the potential increase in value of a property due to retrofits could have negative impacts on tenants in social housing.

“Once you start retrofitting houses, there is the risk that the property’s rental value goes up and so you would see people being moved out in favour of higher paying tenants,” McCabe said. 

In response to Mr. McCabe’s testimony, Fianna Fail TD John Lahart noted that there are many tenants who would like to do their part for climate action, “but actually are completely in the hands of their landlords.”

On the issue of how landlords can sometimes control whether or not a property gets retrofitted, McCabe said this suggests interconnected challenges in achieving climate action.

“This is where we get into the issue of the interdependence between action on the housing crisis and climate action. They are all interrelated challenges,” he said.

Mr. McCabe recommended that there should be consideration given to ensuring security of tenure in a more robust way, as well as looking at potential specialised grants or targeted measures to allow for the retrofitting of rented properties. 

Electric vehicles and transport 

Deputy Lahart also stressed that incentives like the Bike To Work scheme is “front loaded towards people of means,” as it has proved “restrictive and exclusive” to those who can afford to spare extra income.

Electric bike and car schemes are encouraged by the Government to reduce emissions on the roads and help Ireland reach its climate emission targets. However, these incentives require full payment upfront when purchasing electric bikes and vehicles.

The Bike to Work scheme is a Government initiative offering tax free bikes for cycling to work. Although the scheme requires full payment from the purchases upfront, you are later able to reclaim a percentage of the full payment.

Similar to the Bike To Work scheme, the Government of Ireland introduced the Electric Vehicle Grant Scheme to prioritise fully electric cars.

The Oireachtas Committee was informed that the schemes are not effective for vulnerable people who cannot afford to pay upfront and excludes people of lower incomes from getting involved in the incentives.

For lower income households, the schemes require loans to subsidise the upfront payment, which some people are unable to afford.

The engineering of electric vehicles was also discussed at the Budgetary Oversight meeting, as the production of electric vehicle batteries was said to involve serious human rights issues that the public need to be aware of. 

In its ethical batteries campaign, Amnesty International highlighted some of the violations in the production of electric vehicle batteries, including child labour, environmental pollution, ecosystem destruction and indigenous rights violations.

Story by Shauna Burdis and Thomas Hamilton 

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