Making the Swich: How LPG can present more affordable housing options @FlogasBritain

As hope for life returning to somewhat normal in the upcoming months is on the cards, the government begin to prioritise the sectors that have been ignored due to the events of the pandemic. One sector includes affordable housing, and the building of more of these.

From planning to development, to budgeting – there are numerous factors that must be considered when constructing affordable housing. However, one factor that might not initially spring to mind when we think of developing affordable housing is through the conversion of oil heating to LPG. So, why could LPG be part of the solution to meet affordable housing demand? Let’s take a look.

The state of play for affordable housing

After news hit that the cost has trebled to build affordable homes in London since the first programme and the failure of the governments initiative to build 200,000 affordable homes, issues surrounding the topic continue. A recently approved plan to build 1,000 new rentable homes in London has been criticised because they don’t meet the affordable housing criteria. Recent research has also shown that house prices have hit a record high this year.

“Should economic conditions allow” it, up to 180,000 new housing properties that are considered affordable should be built, according to the new Affordable Homes Programme. In a bid to further boost availability, the government stated that councils which don’t build enough new homes will lose the right to determine the location of subsequent new houses. This ruling is part of a planning policy framework which details regulations regarding the number of homes that each council must construct — which considers localised aspects of an area including local house costs and average wages. Essentially, if a location has a particularly high level of unaffordability, that council will need to build a greater number of new, affordable homes.

As a result of this, councils may have no other option but to build new homes in rural areas rather than cities and towns. This focus on building affordable homes in rural areas has been accepted positively by CPRE, the countryside charity, who published guidance in summer 2020 about what is needed to make this a reality.

Although building affordable housing in rural areas provides a solution to the current problem, it raises questions as to how homes will be powered.

LPG and affordable housing: how can it help?

There are around four million homes not connected to the mains gas grid in the UK, according to the Climate Change Committee. The Non Gas Map, which was created in collaboration with the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, says the reliance on the mains grid varies significantly across the UK. Certain locations — such as Northern Scotland and Mid Wales — appear to show less dependence on being connected to the main network, while others, including North-East England and the Home Counties, have a greater percentage of homes that rely on energy provided by mains gas.

One of the biggest concerns when building new homes in rural areas is finding a reliable energy supply. However, we can see that there is an opportunity to construct homes in areas that aren’t connected to the mains network, granted that an equally-efficient alternative is implemented in its place. But how will this encourage affordable housing growth?

To help development and construction companies build new affordable homes in off-grid areas, LPG could be the answer. Currently, a small number of major commercial developers create the majority of the UK’s housing. By using LPG as an easy alternative to main network connection, we can widen the number of locations that a housing project can take place. Consequently, more small- and mid-size companies should have a greater chance of securing a plot for development in the sector and we may see a growth in affordable housing as a result.

Due to its portability and easy storage solutions, LPG also offers many cost advantages when building affordable housing. Keeping production costs as low as possible is essential and the ease of supplying and stockpiling LPG may help developers keep a track of energy costs and ensure that mains grid issues, such as power cuts, won’t affect productivity — another potentially costly side-effect.

The UK continues to place an emphasis on the importance of reducing the negative impacts of climate change. With government targets to reach net-zero emissions by 2050 put in place, its vital we look for more green solutions when supplying energy. In an industry like construction and housing, it’s easy to adopt less environmentally friendly products and practices. LPG is a relatively clean form of energy, releasing just 81% of the carbon dioxide that oil does and 70% of the carbon dioxide that coals emits. With tax relief offered to energy-efficient businesses, it’s helpful to be as eco-friendly as possible. If developers of affordable housing choose to utilise LPG, this could also work towards greater numbers of affordable housing projects.



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