Let’s give householders better information about the flooding risk to their homes

As residents face the aftermath of flooding in South Yorkshire, these devastating climate impacts show the importance of giving individuals more power over the housing decisions they take – our proposal for a Property Resilience Certificate should be part of that empowerment.

As floodwater in the village of Fishlake, South Yorkshire subsides this week, residents will brace themselves for a multi-million pound clean-up operation, adding to the trauma they will already be feeling from this climate disaster.  Sadly, headlines about communities devastated by flooding have become commonplace over the last decade.  In 2015 Storm Desmond caused over £1.6Bn worth of damage, most to housing. Climate change means the risk of flooding will only get worse - 1.8 million homes in England alone are currently at high risk of flooding. 

This figure will only rise unless there is much better planning of housing growth and more attention paid during housebuilding and home renovation to measures that will minimise flood damage and get homes back to being habitable much more rapidly. The Westminster Sustainable Business Forum’s 2018 inquiry, Bricks and Water explored the challenges associated with providing 300,000 new homes per year and made recommendations for sustainable housebuilding in England, including through a new ‘bricks and water sustainability code’ for new housing, and a fairer, tougher and simpler planning framework designed to deliver to the highest standards possible and to ensure a level playing field for developers. This should be a priority for the new government as part of the programme to build the homes the country needs.

Critically, we need to put the householder at the heart of this new framework, and give individuals the information they need to make well-informed judgements and decisions.  The Energy Performance Certificate is a great example of how householders now have the right information to be able to take decisions on energy efficiency.  As well as helping home owners to know what they are buying into, these certificates have driven the requirement for landlords to tackle draughty and uncomfortable homes.

A key recommendation from the Westminster Sustainable Business Forum’s Bricks and Water report was the introduction of a Property Resilience Certificate (PRC) for new and existing homes. This is to give residents an at-a-glance assessment of their home’s vulnerability and steps that can be taken to mitigate the inevitable impacts of floods in future.  This certificate will be critical when buying or letting transactions are made, in the way that the Energy Performance Certificate is now.    

The housing crisis is an issue that is likely to feature prominently in all party manifestos and this presents a unique opportunity to ensure that our new homes are designed sustainably. Incorporating property resilience in policy such as the forthcoming Future Homes Standard will ensure that fewer communities have to endure the danger, disruption and stress associated with flooding. The Westminster Sustainable Forum will be taking forward the Property Resilience Certificate concept as a matter of urgency in 2020 and we invite the new government to engage with us in putting information and hence power into the hands of individuals.