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The Sunday Times - 15th July 2012. Jonathan Leake Environment Editor

IT COULD be Britain’s biggest home makeover. Homeowners and tenants are to be lent up to £10,000 each to make their homes greener.

They will be allowed to spend it on high-tech lighting, underfloor heating, wood-burning stoves, french shutters and a range of other “aspirational” improvements, as well as traditional insulation measures.

The money will be made available under the “green deal” to be launched this autumn by Greg Barker, the climate change minister, as part of a drive to make Britain’s housing more energy efficient.

Last week Barker’s department released a list of 45 types of home improvement that will be acceptable for financing via the green deal. The list also includes LED lighting, new front doors, shower units and taps, roof lights and insulated or heated wooden floors.

Barker said insulation and other energy-saving measures were still at the heart of the scheme but added: “The key to making the green deal work is to make it aspirational. I want people to be able to visibly improve their homes. There will be a regeneration effect making homes and whole areas more valuable as well as more efficient.”

He said the scheme would give tenants as well as owners the chance to improve their homes. Householders will be able to get low-interest loans of up to £10,000 and repay them over up to 25 years.

Barker has imposed a “golden rule” that the repayments should never exceed the savings made on energy bills by making properties more efficient. It means that in theory people will be able to spend up to £10,000 on their home but effectively pay nothing extra for it. The repayments will be collected via energy bills.

Millions of homes are to be covered by the scheme. Later this month Barker will issue planning guidance to councils requiring them to offer the green deal to all residents in an area so all householders, private and rented, have the opportunity to take it up.

One idea is to allow residents’ organisations or other groups to sign up local people and then negotiate discounts to “green” whole streets or areas in one go.

Barker believes this would particularly benefit “tired estates or streets”, which could gain from the mass installation of external cladding.

He said: “External cladding massively improves energy efficiency and dramatically improves the look of your home, especially if you cover large areas in one go.”
Some groups, notably landlords, will be obliged to improve the energy efficiency of their properties. From 2016 no landlord will be allowed to reject a reasonable request from tenants to green a property. From 2018 landlords will be unable to let out properties not certified as energy efficient.

The government is also making £1.3 billion of grants available, targeted mainly at the worst homes or low-income households.

Original article feature in The Times on 15th July 2012