In what many say is his first 'green' budget in 10 years, the decision to reward buyers of carbon neutral homes with no stamp duty is just one of many that illustrates the government's emphasis on the importance of energy efficiency in the home.
In last Wednesday's budget, Gordon Brown announced that from October 1st this year, all zero carbon homes up to the value of £500,000 would be exempt from stamp duty until September 30th 2012.
A zero carbon house is defined as a property with "zero net emissions of carbon dioxide from all energy use in the home" and includes energy consumed by any household appliances as well as heating and ventilation.
The government also recently stated that from 2016 all new homes would have to adhere to zero carbon regulations and the 2007 budget was intended to be the first stage of this plan.
There are currently very few zero carbon homes in the UK and in order to meet the government's targets, any new builds would not only have to be extremely energy efficient but also produce enough energy to cancel out the small amount of emissions it does create.
At present, households are responsible for roughly a quarter of the UK's total carbon emissions and the 2007 budget is the latest step in attempting to change house-holders' attitudes as to how they run their home. Currently however, it is almost impossible to adapt any existing building to zero carbon status in order to achieve the stamp duty waiver so the Government has directed this particular section of the budget towards the new build market.
Richard Simmons, managing director of The Renewable Energy Centre stated:
"Public demand for an energy efficient home is certain to rise rapidly as buyers rush to take advantage of the stamp duty waiver and as a result the UK's house building industry will be forced to rethink their approach to future building projects".
He continued "In order to help companies and home owners consider a greener approach TheRenewableEnergyCentre.co.uk is an invaluable resource. It contains a fully comprehensive national directory of specialist contractors and suppliers in this arena. The site will also be an invaluable tool for both small and large building companies to source products and expertise in looking to meet the new carbon neutral targets".
Although the sudden growth in market demand for energy efficient houses may seem like a highly profitable route, many companies are not so certain.
Richard Baily, an architect for over 30 years argues "Without government investment into zero carbon technology, the cost of creating a carbon neutral house may outweigh the financial benefits of a stamp duty waiver. Environmentally responsible or not, many house builders will be carefully considering whether committing themselves to building "green" is a realistic strategy".
Despite being the first budget to concentrate on issues surrounding the environment, many feel that it only amounts to token gestures with only brief references to the vital matter regarding cutting the energy emissions from existing UK homes. Is this a step in the right direction or a simply an attempt to win votes? It remains to be seen what impact Brown's plans for zero carbon homes will have on people, businesses and the environment within the UK.
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