Hunts council may hang on to popular ‘green’ houses

TWO houses bought to demonstrate energy-saving technologies to Huntingdonshire residents could remain in public ownership for a further two years.

When Huntingdonshire District Council bought the semi-detached home in St Neots and detached house in St Ives in 2008 for �329,000, it planned to sell them in March 2012 when they had done their job of showing off a range of new technologies.

But, with a new “Green Deal” to promote domestic energy saving included in the Energy Bill currently going through Parliament, the St Ives house at least could still have huge value to local residents.

Under the Green Deal, companies will be allowed to offer soft loans for energy-saving improvements that will be repaid through fuel bills. The money, which will attach to the home, not the householder will be used to ‘retro-fit’ improvements – precisely the purpose of HDC’s Green House scheme.

Councillors are being asked to consider three options for the future of the two houses: sell them next March as originally planned, sell St Neots and keep St Ives until March 2014, or keep both until March 2014 and rent out the St Neots property in the meantime.

Although the housing market is still depressed, the two homes have been independently valued at �415,000 – well short of the �470,000 assumed when they were bought – though that does not take account of a range of improvements that have cut carbon emissions in both by 75 per cent.

“A number of estate agents have visited the properties, but they don’t have a clue what the sale price might be and what a purchaser might be willing to pay,” said environment team leader Chris Jablonski. “The valuation is based simply on the type of house in each location.”

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His favoured option is to keep both houses until March 2014, when the capital value might have risen.

In the meantime, the St Ives house, close to the junction of the A1123 and Ramsey Road, would continue to showcase the sort of technologies that would be fundable by the Green Deal.

The St Ives house, which has a much larger range of installed technologies, has attracted most of the 2,000-plus visitors in less than a year since they opened. “The St Neots house is much simpler, just having a modern boiler and dry lining installed, and it’s not in such an obvious location,” Mr Jablonski said.

“We expect the Green Deal to come into effect in October 2012 after quite a build-up, and I have high hopes for a lot of the measures in the St Ives house.

“We could exceed that number of visitors if the Green Deal is brought in as we think it will be. The benefits of keeping the houses far outweigh the benefit of selling them and having the capital.”

Manufacturers and installers have benefited from the Green House scheme, and HDC hopes they will cover the continued running costs of the St Ives property if it is retained.