Chapter 7 - House improvement, tenure and supply chain issues
A renewed focus and effort is required to tackle the persistent problems of remediating rural and remote Scotland's many hard-to-heat and hard-to-treat houses. The problems derive from the nature of the rural housing stock, which has proportionately:
- many more, detached and older houses with features like attic bedrooms and solid walls;
- much less social housing;
- many more privately owned and/or rented houses, a significant proportion of which is older housing stock, often in poor condition (See references in Section 1.7); and
- a tendency of area-based remediation schemes to deliver "low-hanging fruit' measures and not tackle the more challenging and expensive properties.
In the process, many small, local and skilled suppliers can be deterred by the costly and time-consuming accreditation credentials required to apply for short-life and, to them, overly bureaucratised programmes, which put them off getting involved because they appear to be more trouble than they are worth. Whilst any accreditation system will require guarantees that ensure a consistent quality of service is provided, a better balance is required to encourage local take up. Present requirements not only contribute to some rural fuel poverty issues remaining unaddressed but also fail to generate up-skilling opportunities for Scotland's rural and remote rural workforces, which the Task Force believes should be a key priority for Scottish Government.
Critical actions which will need to be taken are shown below.
7.1 SG to ensure that Scotland's Energy Efficiency Programme ( SEEP) grant and loan funding is made available to support the costs of essential building repair and improvement works that may be required before energy efficiency improvement measures can be installed.
7.2 SG also to change the criteria for Warmer Homes Scotland ( WHS) to include funding for enabling measures such as domestic oil and LPG tanks, electrical upgrades, flue lining and the installation of the most efficient storage heaters.
7.3 Small firms based in rural areas should be encouraged and enabled to provide the skilled workers required to deliver all SEEP funded projects e.g. by SG working with the British Board of Agrément ( BBA) to simplify accreditation and tendering requirements and ensuring that there are more, qualified trainers available to deliver accreditation in rural areas.
7.4 SG to issue guidance to all agencies engaging in the delivery of both HEEPS ABS and WHS to ensure closer joint working where practicable, including the guidance required on data sharing.
7.5 Historic Environment Scotland should research, develop and promote more case studies to highlight affordable insulation, draught protection and heating options that prolong the life and conservation status of rural Scotland's built heritage whilst delivering effective affordable warmth and ventilation for occupiers.
7.6 SG to develop a new scheme for private sector landlords which would require but incentivise them to bring their rented properties up to an affordable warmth level by offering them a mix of grant and loan, the size of which would be closely linked to agreement on the rent levels to be charged and the nature of the allocation process. This action should be re-visited once SG has consulted on the Regulation of Energy Efficiency in the Private Sector ( REEPS)
7.7 SG and installers to verify that all vulnerable households, including private tenants and their landlords, receive the locally-delivered support and advice they need to enable both parties to realise the benefits that should accrue from retrofit measures.
7.8 SG and umbrella organisations like Scottish Federation of Housing Associations ( SFHA) to investigate and consider the potential use of expertise already embedded in some rural housing associations to extend their outreach support services to the affordable warmth needs of private sector households in their communities, as well as continuing to meet existing social housing energy efficiency obligations to their own tenants.