Environmental Cost of Old Housing Stock Mounts


Almost 8 million homes are well past their use by date and could be torn down to build multiple energy efficient dwellings and address the housing crisis.

One old standard house on an 800 to 1000sq m block could make way for up to three new homes, according to the Affordable Housing Environmental Scan 2022 by Powerhousing and Corelogic.

The report found these homes, most of which have existed for 30 years or more, contribute up to 18 per cent to the country’s emissions.

They were also a big hurdle for meeting net-zero emissions by 2050, a target reaffirmed by the Australian government during the the 26th Conference of the Parties, in Glasgow.

In 2003, a four star Nathers energy rating became mandatory for all new homes—before this it was a “lottery” as to what level the star rating was, and most came in at one to two stars.

The report found the vast majority of Australia’s housing stock was built before this time, and most of these buildings would not be retrofitted to meet standards in the National Construction Code by 2050.

Meanwhile the nation’s affordability was being stretched to its limits with dwelling prices outpacing wages 12 to one and rents hit all-time highs.

Energy efficiency of older housing stock

LocationDwellingsPre 2003Non NCC retrofit

^Source: Powerhousing CoreLogic Affordable Housing Environmental Scan 2022

Powerhousing Australia chief executive Nicholas Proud said the cost of old housing stock was adding up on a personal and national level.

“The twin climate and Covid-19 crises have reinforced the unsuitability of Australia’s 30-year-old-plus housing stock on lower income families and younger Australians, who are disproportionately living in lower-energy-rated homes that impact financially and unnerves well-being,” Proud said.

“Countless Australians are only too aware after months in lockdown that average dwellings are cold in winter, hot in summer and prohibitively expensive to cool and heat.

“Add to this that these homes are not designed for universal lifelong living, whether that’s accessibility for prams, ageing in place, or living with disabilities.

“Australia’s 8 million pre-energy rated homes are now well past their use by date, contributing up to 18 per cent of Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions and a real liability when it comes to hitting our Paris Agreement commitments for net-zero emissions.”

The role of the built environment, which contributes to 38 per cent of carbon emissions according to COP26, will be discussed at length during the climate conference on November 11.

Prime minister Scott Morrison said Australia has one of the best rates of rooftop solar in the world and technology would be the answer to tackling climate change.

“Technology will have the answers to a decarbonised economy, particularly over time,” Morrison said in Glasgow on Monday.

“And [it can] achieve it in a way that does not deny our citizens, especially in developing economies, their livelihoods or the opportunity for a better quality of life.”

However, future and existing residential developments are still subject to zoning and council regulations.

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