Homes fit for the future
By: Chris Knight, CEO, Legal & General Retail Retirement (LGRR)
Traditionally in the UK, our home is seen as our castle. Frequently there is an expectation that the family home will be bequeathed to the next generation. In fact, 36% of UK residents will do this, that’s approximately 18 million people. But, much like castles, UK homes are predominantly old, and draughty. The United Kingdom has the oldest housing of EU Member States, with nearly 38% of its homes dating from before 1946, and a large part of UK carbon emissions come from heating these millions of homes. So what sort of legacy are we leaving the next generation, and what can we do to ensure that the goodwill behind passing on property doesn’t inadvertently contribute to the climate crisis?
Across the UK, it has been suggested that £13bn will need to be invested every year between now and 2050 to retrofit homes and bring them up to the standards required to meet the Government’s net zero carbon emissions target (1). There is also a 2035 target to improve the Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) ratings, which look at energy costs and emissions, which could require £65 billion of energy efficiency upgrades – the broader decarbonisation challenge will require even greater sums of public and private capital to be mobilised.
Extreme weather, such as the ‘Beast from the East’ in 2018, has added further urgency to the need to retrofit UK homes. This excessively cold spell caused Britain’s greenhouse gas emissions to rise by 2.5m tonnes, or half of the total annual emissions of Albania: due to inefficient insulatio, and the volume of homes using gas heating.
The UK’s housing stock is responsible for approximately 20% of the country’s total greenhouse gas emissions, and the challenge of decarbonising our built environment could result in a 40% shortfall to our economy-wide decarbonisation targets by 2030, unless it is addressed at pace (2). The success of the UK’s ambitious net-zero target rests with policymakers today. Meryam Omi, Head of Sustainability and Responsible Investment Strategy at Legal & General, recently called out the need to implement an ambitious ‘green’ recovery package. It must have clear pathways for companies to build aligned strategies, and for investors to direct capital into ‘green’ projects at scale, and is now matter of necessity, not choice.
Few people capture the urgency of today’s climate challenge as succinctly as the renowned campaigner and author Jonathon Porritt. I will have the pleasure of speaking with him at the ILC’s December 3 conference, Future of Ageing 2020, in a session titled ‘The real intergenerational theft? Coming together to tackle the climate crisis’. We know we’ve left it late to tackle this crisis. But in his new book, ‘Hope in hell – a decade to confront the climate emergency’, Jonathon offers hope that solutions exist, as climate politics have been transformed by a new generation of activists, such as Greta Thunberg. What the book makes clear, however, is that ‘it won’t stay not too late much longer’, which is what makes the 2020s a decisive decade as we confront these issues.
At Legal & General, we believe our success also depends on the sustainability of the societies we rely on, or to put it bluntly; alleviating the climate crisis is necessary to ensure a future customer base. That means using inclusive capitalism to create a decarbonised economy, fairer societies and more responsible business. The capital to achieve change is there. This issue affects all generations but all generations have assets too. Projections estimate there will be £950 billion in UK DC pensions by 2028, boosted enormously by the introduction of auto enrolment, and thus the savings of millions of young people.
There is already £1.7 trillion in housing equity owned by the over 55s. As an equity release provider, our products can also help make small but valuable steps towards change. Lifetime mortgages can release cash tied up in older homes to make those energy efficiency changes, like a new boiler, or better insulation, and we are working to make this easier for customers.
A more efficient home creates a better legacy for the next generation than passing on an old draughty house that doesn’t meet modern climate standards. Our homes can still be our castles – but there’s so much we can do to make them strongholds for the future.
Chris Knight, CEO, Legal & General Retail Retirement (LGRR)
Chris Knight leads LGRR – one of L&G Group’s five divisions – where the focus is on helping individuals to lead longer, healthier and happier lives in retirement.
Together, Chris’s team helps over half a million customers to live their own ‘colourful retirements’, with a range of products and services including annuities, lifetime mortgages and care solutions. Chris is also the L&G Group Customer Champion.
Chris has a first-class Economics degree from King’s College, Cambridge, and still lives in the university city with his wife Imogen and their two sons. He is a former Samaritans volunteer and a board member at CHS Group, a Cambridgeshire charitable housing association and social enterprise. Chris has worked in four continents, in a career spanning more than three decades. He is a Fellow of the Institute and Faculty of Actuaries.