Hundreds of Laois families will continue to live in poorly insulated local authority houses next winter because only vacant houses will receive an energy upgrade in 2012.
Laois County Council have been allocated €216,000 by the Dept of the Environment to upgrade the energy rating of local authority houses, but have been told to focus on unoccupied houses, meaning that long term renters are left in the cold.
Adding to tenant difficulties is another government guideline that unless houses can reach the target rating of at least C1, they are not to be touched, a problem that local TD Brian Stanley has raised to Minister Phil Hogan.
“I am calling on the minister to relax the guidelines, even doing some work would save a lot of energy. They should be doing the houses on the lowest rung of the ladder. The department is just too rigid, It’s all very fine getting houses to the top standard, but it shouldn’t be done at the expense of leaving others at the bottom. Some of these houses have only an inch or two of attic insulation,” he said.
Work being done on newer vacant houses includes attic and wall insulation, replacement of windows and external doors and the fitting of energy efficient condensing boilers.
Older local authority estates such as Brigid’s Place and O’Moore Place in Portlaoise, won’t qualify for improvements, as they were built with solid walls, making cavity insulation impossible.
A senior engineer in the housing section of Laois County Council said all of their €216,000 grant is to be spent on upgrading empty homes for reletting, to be done as each house becomes vacant. Last year they had twice as much money to spend.
“It is easier to upgrade a house when there is nobody living in it. The Council carries out energy upgrade works in accordance with Department of the Environment circulars. Houses are considered where the energy rating is improved on a scale from 50kwh per m2 per year to 300kwh. The target standard is C1 or better,” he said.
Minister Phil Hogan said that councils are permitted to do work on houses where tenants are living.
“Local authorities may also undertake works, out of the allocations provided, to improve the energy efficiency of occupied units, where they consider this appropriate. I envisage that local authorities would give priority to older houses which lack adequate wall and roof insulation,” he said in the Dáil last week.