Homes in Ireland need to be more energy efficient to insulate private renters from fuel poverty, and to aid the Government in meeting its goal of reducing carbon emissions by 51% by 2030.
29% of Irish households are now estimated to be living in energy poverty, the highest number ever recorded. Average household energy bills have increased by €1100 in one year. Currently, being a tenant increases the risk of being in energy poverty compared to being a homeowner. Just over 1 in 8 people in Ireland are living in fuel poverty, and the risk is heightened for those who are tenants.
The rising costs of energy prices continue to disproportionately impact households in the bottom 20% of the income distribution who spend a larger percentage of their income on energy as those on low incomes are placed under the financial burden of heating often inefficient homes.
In tandem, Ireland is trying to reduce carbon emissions by 51% by 2030. This will be impossible to do without having schemes that target the private rented sector. In 2018, the residential sector accounted for 24% of energy-related CO2 emissions in Ireland. The residential sector was the second largest source of CO2 emissions after transport. With 1 in 5 households renting, the private rented sector accounts for a significant portion of the residential sector.
Government subsidised home retrofitting schemes have not specifically targeted the private rental sector. In the past, landlords have not availed of the standard schemes available. For example, the Home Renovation Scheme, which ran from 2013 to 2018, was available to landlords. Unfortunately, only 2.6% of properties that benefited from the scheme were registered as rental properties. This is because landlords, who are applying and paying for the retrofits, do not directly benefit from the scheme, i.e. through lower energy bills or a warmer home. However, renters are also reluctant to pay for the retrofit as it is not their property and the seeming impermanence of the tenure.
Threshold is calling on the Government to deliver targeted schemes to improve energy efficiency measures for the private rental sector.
Government subsidised home retrofitting schemes will need to be designed in consultation with landlords, owner management companies and experts in retrofitting. Particular care and guidance must be given to landlords when they set about retrofitting their properties to ensure the tenants are not unnecessarily evicted for work to be undertaken.
This is necessary to future proof the private rental stock, limit fuel poverty among renters, make renting comfortable for older people or those with ill health, and to make private renting a sustainable tenure. It is particularly pressing as the Government has committed to introducing a minimum BER, or cost optimal, in the private retained sector, by 2025.