Jess McCabe

I am a journalist and these are some of the stories I've been working on lately

Arrears drop in Passivhaus schemes

An interesting news story that came out of a feature I commissioned for Sustainable Housing:

13 February 2014 | By Jess McCabe, Richard Shrubb

A landlord claims it has slashed rent arrears close to zero by housing tenants in super energy-efficient Passivhaus homes.


Three years after the first tenant moved into Hastoe Housing Association’s 28 Passivhaus homes in Essex and Norfolk, just one is in arrears – and the landlord said this was a minimal problem caused by the timing of housing benefit payments. This compares with average arrears of between 3 and 4 per cent across Hastoe’s 5,000 homes.

Kevin Hartnett, business development director at Hastoe, said this was because tenants are spending less on energy and are more able to afford their rent. He added: ‘The findings will make the business case more attractive for building more Passivhaus homes. It’s not something that as a sector we have looked at before.’

The University of East Anglia has been monitoring the energy use of Hastoe’s Passivhaus tenants. It found, for example, that tenants in one three-bedroom house spent £120 a year on heating and hot water.

But not everyone is convinced of the link between energy-efficient homes and low arrears. Jerome Geoghegan, group development director at L&Q, said it has not found evidence that arrears are lower in homes completed to level 4 or 5 of the code for sustainable homes when compared with the less energy-efficient code level 3.

He added that Hastoe’s results were worth exploring further, and he welcomed ‘anything that helps tenants sustain their tenancies’. L&Q hopes to build a Passivhaus development in Bromley, south London, dependent on planning permission.

Hastoe is one of the first social landlords to build at scale to the stringent Passivhaus energy efficiency standard, under which homes are so well insulated they can be heated with only a hairdryer. So far it has 28 homes completed with tenants living in them, and a further 100 homes under construction. Building to this standard adds £15,000 to £20,000 to the cost of each home, Mr Hartnett said.

A handful of other landlords have followed suit, for example, Circle Housing Group is building a 51-home Passivhaus project in Rainham, east London. It claims this will be the first Passivhaus development to be let entirely at affordable rents.

Helen Wilson, group head of energy and green strategy at Circle Housing, said the scheme, which will be completed in the autumn, ‘will set a precedent for Circle Housing to continue to deliver highly energy-
efficient properties’.

Read more about this in Sustainable Housing’s feature Balancing the Bills.

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