A pioneering eco-village – a housing estate consisting of environmentally friendly properties located in the middle of nowhere – has failed to attract significant interest from private buyers, casting doubt over the commercial viability of greening Britain’s housing stock.
The eco-village, which is situated in Balvonie Braes, near Inverness, comprises 52 eco-friendly properties, of which 10 have been purchased under a co-ownership scheme and a further 10 have been occupied by housing association tenants. The remaining 32 properties have been put on the market for private sale.
Unfortunately, only four properties have sold since August, during which time the newly completed eco-village was put on display for public viewing, attracting thousands of people who were seemingly very keen on the idea of living in a purpose-built eco-home.
The properties built at Balvonie Braes offer several advantages, but perhaps none is more attractive to new buyers than energy efficiency. According to developers, some of the eco-homes can be heated for an entire year at a cost of £100 or less.
Energy efficiency is an important consideration for any prospective home buyer, not least because energy bills are expected to rise steadily over the next few years. Homeowners throughout Britain have employed various measures to control energy bills, which can be reduced by installing cavity wall insulation, loft insulation. The homes at Balvonie Braes, however, include many environmentally friendly measures as standard.
So why are potential buyers looking elsewhere?
The issue might have little to do with energy efficiency and everything to do with price and location. Although situated close to the A9, the Balvonie Braes eco-village may be described as a little too remote for some buyers, whilst asking prices of around £300,000 for three-bed semi-detached properties is hardly representative of current market conditions.
Affordability and location are obviously more important to buyers than energy efficiency – and understandably so. The implications for developers and the local council, however, are potentially dire.
Highland councillor Roddy Balfour, who suggested the properties might not be as environmentally friendly as advertised, noted: “Exaggerated claims have been made about the design of the houses but the public have not wanted to buy any. Now we are stuck with these houses, which won’t sell”.