Chris Norris, Head of Policy at the NLA, tells us about the NLA’s work at a European level.
I’m not exactly a Eurosceptic, but I do take a fairly critical view of some of the activity and output of our friends in Brussels – particularly when they stray into the housing arena.
Like any responsible representative body, trying to support our membership by advising decision makers and informing policy makers, the NLA has a strong interest on what goes on in the European Parliament, as well as what emanates from the EU Commission and Council of Europe. But it is not always easy to keep track of what is happening, or what will prove important once the wheels of that great international bureaucracy stop turning.
Most of the issues we take an interest in are fairly self-explanatory. For instance, the NLA and our partners in the UIPI (roughly translated as the International Union of Immobile Property ), have invested a great deal of time and effort into shaping the forthcoming Mortgage Directive (sic) to ensure that it was amended enough not to completely cripple the UK buy-to-let market – as we feared the initial draft would have. It is obvious that the NLA and UIPI would want to influence this directive, even the title EU Directive on Credit Agreements Relating to Residential Property (AKA the Mortgage Directive) indicates that it is likely to have some significant bearing on the business interests of landlords.
However, it is sometime a little opaque, meaning we have to weigh up the pros and cons of getting involved. After all, trying to influence politicians from 27 different nation-states can quickly become an expensive logistical problem and we must always be mindful of return on investment (ROI).
So, when the prospect of legislation focusing on the efficient use of water was raised, I must admit being less than enthused about its likely impact. However, colleagues who looked into the matter in greater detail were able to correct my hasty assumption.
It seems that the intention was to create a regime similar to that which underpins the requirement for Energy Performance Certificates (EPCs) to rate energy efficiency. These Water Performance Certificates (WPCs) were intended to provide a means to rate the water efficiency of a property.
Having identified the risk at an early stage, we were able to object to these proposals. Not because we disagree that waster should be valued as an indispensable commodity – or that there needs to be proactive action to combat its waste – but because of the enormous potential cost to property owners and householders in the UK, and that the requirements could have little to no impact on the issue.
I’m glad to say that our efforts were successful in two distinct ways.
One: By acting early we convinced policy makers that the proposed legislation represented insufficient added-value to pursue and so the legislation was dropped.
Therefore, in practical terms we avoided:
- The introduction of water performance certification/auditing/labelling
- Minimum water performance requirement for buildings
- Compulsory smart meters for water
- Certification for water reuse and water harvesting systems
- Labelling of water device (taps, showers, etc.) and eventually the exclusion of the least efficient from the market
- Increases in the price of water
Two: We achieved possibly one of the greatest returns on investment since the Louisiana Purchase.
Had the proposed ‘low cost’ measures been implemented, the estimated cost to the UK private-rented sector would have been £34.85 billion. Had this been teamed with the preferred (by some) option of domestic grey-water systems, the figure jumps to £102.85 billion – or £10,250 per property just to ensure compliance.
Given the cost of the NLA’s involvement in European affairs, and according to my calculations, that’s roughly a saving of £34,000,000 for every £1 spent by the NLA on the issue.
That’s an ROI to be proud of!