Australian Lefty on Politics, Governance, Science and Info Management

Can Rudd combine housing and environmental agenda?

Posted by Dave Bath on 2007-08-13

Rudd’s plan for affordable housing by encouraging funds to build houses and units, and give subsidies for leases below the market rate is a bit weird.  First, who would define the market rate for a particular suburb?

Second, there is a huge opportunity to piggyback energy efficiency into the plan.

If Rudd were smart, the he is talking about encouraging new housing stock (which has a very long lifespan), he could kill two birds with one stone by making the amount of the subsidy dependent on how green the building was.

Buildings that are energy efficient by design (not appliances) can make a huge impact on the environment, don’t require any new fangled technology, but do require investment by the builder.  While overall the estimate that energy-efficient design and construction of houses and units can pay for itself overall within 7 years (much shorter than the life of the building), this cost would be borne initially by the builders, and there is no incentive for the builders to do this: occupants pay for energy.

Given that medium/high density is more efficient than separate buildings (a wall between two dwellings doesn’t have to be insulated from the outside world), and the ability to walk to amenities reduces total carbon production overall, a well designed set of incentives could achieve massive improvements in greenhouse emissions.

Of course, how will that be sold to the home-owners who have been feeling wealthy (and continuing to spend) because of the housing bubble?


7 Responses to “Can Rudd combine housing and environmental agenda?”

  1. Geoff said

    This policy on the run stuff Rudd is comming up with day by day is beginning to look like he has no real policy behind him and I think the Australian Public are becomming aware of it.
    The latest policy on the run HOME OWNER reminds me of the Geto’s labour gov’s around Australia produced after the last world War. Some of which are still standing in places like Melbourne Geto high rise.
    Sure we need to rethink our housing one house one block mentality but it’s not somthing a govenment can legislate it a market issue
    This guy is getting into areas he has no experience and no place

  2. Dave Bath said

    Totally understand your ghetto comments, but properly managed with guidelines for investors, I think something good could come out of it. I see the biggest danger comes from the dependence of the economy generally on the perceived wealth from the housing bubble.

    Yep, Rudd and Co are doing the same populist politics before policy thing they have criticized Howard and Co for.

    I thought Rudd would be different when I read his pieces in the Monthly and have some principles. Not any more.

    I’m beginning to think Latham’s policies and willingness to stand up against stupid policies shows greater character and fitness to be PM than Rudd.

  3. Trev Howe said

    Buildings that are energy efficient by design (not appliances) can make a huge impact on the environment, don’t require any new fangled technology, but do require investment by the builder.
    Very true.
    New houses do require orientation to the sun and opening windows.
    We have become addicted to air conditioning and “new fangled technologies” and have forgotten the meaning of ‘shelter’.

  4. Dave Bath said

    “orientation to the sun”, or sometimes away from the Sun. Coober Pedy is a good example. From wikipedia …

    The harsh summer temperatures mean that many residents prefer to live in caves bored into the hillsides. A standard three bedroom cave home with lounge, kitchen, and bathroom can be excavated out of the rock in the hillside for a similar price to a house on the surface. It remains at a constant temperature, whereas surface living needs air-conditioning, especially during the summer months, when temperatures often exceed 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit).

  5. Trev Howe said

    Yes indeed Dave
    – and in Tunisia where the first ‘star wars’ movie showed troglodytes (sp?) homes. However these are both ‘back to the future’ type examples of local passive solar design of homes – as are the wind towers of Pakistan.
    ‘Devolution’ is the way to go. Decentralization of power and a return to what works locally is a pretty good summation of things to come. Organic gardening in place of chemical poisons, renewable ethanol in place of petrol and opening windows in place of air conditioning.
    Rudd is part of a machine that espouses more centralization as do the Liberals and virtually all world leaders. However they will listen to the polls so change must come from the popular voice. We are riding on a wave of wealth at present but in seeking a sustainable future – we should look to the past.

  6. Dave Bath said

    Actually centralization might have some advantages. On the temperature/air-conditioning issue, standalone houses obviously have a greater surface-area to volume ratio than flats or townhouses which share more walls (and have fewer roofs if they are multistory).
    Increasing the density of housing (assuming it is going into inner city areas rather than contributing to urban sprawl) also improves transport efficiency.

    See also: Decentralization, environment and planning where I discuss this mainly in terms of the dangers of sprawl (including impact on productive land) in provincial centres rather than increasing their density. (I used to live in Warrnambool in a unit one residential block away from the centre of town – great lifestyle!)

  7. Trev Howe said

    Yes medium density housing is fine. In fact the ‘Y’ generation (18-35y.o.) prefers to live close to the CBD. But in the context of ‘devolution’ we are talking about the decentralization of power.
    Example: A new housing estate is to be built in your area and the local politician calls a meeting to gauge public opinion – you stand up and say-
    “This is a fine idea but all major decisions regarding this development should be made locally – by the people of the town. That is – this town becomes an autonomous region – the people decide where the roads go – where the profits are spent etc.”
    This is happening to me right here right now. Will this massive urban development on rural land result in a better lifestyle for those currently living in the area? As things currently stand the answer is no. The credits will go to the politicians and the profits will go to large developers.
    I know you were wanting to discuss the Rudd plan and energy efficiency of houses but these are not stand alone issues and the question of who makes the decisions is fundamental to the outcomes.
    You are right about medium density and transport and energy efficiency of larger housing blocks more central to services. I have just returned from the ruins of Pompei and that ancient dense city was more efficient than our suburban sprawl.

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