My Search for Affordable and Sustainable Housing

Affordable and sustainable housing

Housing is a funny thing. It is the biggest item in most people’s budgets, certainly in my own. It is also something that potentially has a big environmental impact in terms of building materials and heating. Therefore, there is good reason to optimise in terms of finances and sustainability when it comes to housing. But how do you go about finding affordable and sustainable housing?

Housing is probably one of the most inflexible categories, at least in my budget. Living in a big city, I know how difficult it can be to find an affordable place to live. Adding to that the ambition for sustainable housing makes for a pretty difficult task.

What am I looking for in terms of affordable and sustainable housing?

Ever since I moved out of my parents’ house at 18, I have had two requirements for my home. (1) I must be able to afford it, preferably without spending my entire income, and (2) it would be really nice if it’s, well, nice. Sustainability for many years did not play any part in my decision.

Only recently, as I have been on the lookout for a new home, have I considered the sustainability of it as well. As with many other things, there is a considerable overlap between sustainability and financial independence in terms of housing. A more sustainable house definitely can also be the better financial choice. I think this is especially true for the following factors, which are some I have considered in my house-search:

  • Size
  • Energy use / heating costs
  • Energy source

Size determines price

As I will be staying in Copenhagen and am looking for something in good condition, the general rule of thumb is: the bigger the house, the higher the price. It also costs more to heat up a bigger house. Houses are built using a bunch of resources extracted from the ground or forests, so a big house puts a heavy toll on nature. Due to my minimalist tendencies, I also don’t need a big house. Hence the logical decision for my purse and the planet is to buy small.

Go for energy efficiency

Finding a house with low energy use is a no-brainer: Energy for heating costs money and is bad for the planet as it often requires fossil fuels to be burnt. So, I am looking for something with relatively low annual heating expenses. Here, the size of the house plays a big role, but the building materials, including insulation, also matter.

Finally, the energy source matters too. So, I have been on the lookout for district heating or heat pumps, which are cheaper and have a lower carbon footprint than most other systems – especially oil central heating.

So – although housing can be a tricky and not-so-very-flexible budget item, I hope you can still see that it is an area where sustainability and financial savviness collide. I hope you have the possibility to prioritise both the next time you’re looking for your new home.

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