God bless you, lucky home owners

You don’t often see national newspapers celebrating a drop in house prices, despite the fact that they rose twice as fast as average incomes in the past decade. It’s much like the coverage of any strike that might affect a journalist’s holidays plans.

Most journalists and commentators are wealthy middle class home owners, so they are heavily invested in maintaining this trend of above-income-inflation house price rises. There are two main reasons for this trend: first, house building supply never came close to meeting demand; second, cheap credit created a bubble that massively over-inflated the value of homes.

Here in London, households with incomes up to an incredible £74,000 are soon to become eligible for “affordable housing”, which you can buy up bit by bit. Us paupers on a mere £74k are no longer able to buy a home otherwise.

In the past year this trend has very slightly eased, with falling demand matching a slight recovery of housing building numbers after the recession kicked them off a cliff. That’s Labour’s reaction to the recession – not a Green fiscal stimulus, but at least not cuts followed by a depression. Still, this slight reversal doesn’t please Geoffrey Dicks, chief economist of Novus Capital Markets, who warned in The Times that recent trends are “exacerbating an emerging supply-demand imbalance”. Cripes!

But just before you got too upset, Dicks evokes Tiny Tim to cheer on the possible return of above-income-inflation house price rises. God bless us, every one! Perhaps after being adopted by Scrooge, Tim would have reason to cheer on the rise of grossly unfair home ownership.

Scrap those old boilers, politicians

This one is a no-brainer for blog action day. The UK’s Committee for Climate Change has called for it, Boris Johnson of all people includes it in his air quality strategy, and it will help people save money as energy bills rise.

The Government should set-up a boiler scrappage scheme (and you should sign the petition). Let people trade in old, inefficient boilers for new ones, or at least to get a massive discount. They did it for cars to help an ailing industry, why not do it with boilers to promote jobs across the country, cut carbon and help vulnerable households?

This fun little gimmick is of course one small piece of the unprecedented housing puzzle. How exactly do we cut emissions from heating, cooling and electricity by 90-100% across all the nation’s buildings in the next twenty to thirty years? The technical challenges are big enough, and with limp government exemplified by Labour up until a year or so ago – and matched by weak Conservative plans – getting the financing in place is a tricky subject.

But the hardest part will be selling it to the public. Loft insulation and new boilers are fine – more efficiency without visible changes. What about cladding that nice brick / pebbledash / stone house with external insulation? What about reducing some room sizes for internal wall cladding?

We need political parties that can implement this boiler scrappage scheme today, and begin to seriously address the wider challenge over the next two decades. We need MPs who are committed to a Green New Deal.

Help turn RBS into the Royal Bank for Sustainability

People & Planet, WDM and Platform have just launched an audacious campaign against the Treasury, seeking a judicial review to transform RBS from the UK’s largest “dirty development” investor into the foremost green finance institution. Check out the Financial Times story for the lowdown (it made the front page!) and lobby your MP to sign the Early Day Motion supporting this move. AS Jonathan Porritt said at today’s SDC Breakthroughs event, the Treasury has held the UK back for too long. It is years behind the public, and even business, on climate change. Using our 70% public share in RBS is exactly the kind of initiative that could unlock the green new deal, using the skills and experience of RBS staff to finance investment in low carbon industry and infrastructure. I’m very proud of P&P! After contacting your MP and pestering the Treasury, support People & Planet to help them pay for the campaign, and for the judicial review if they win it.