Working together with residents on the net zero carbon agenda

James Bryson, 22 April 2021

While housing providers across the country stress-test business plans and get to grips with the new technology needed to reach net zero carbon, are we doing enough to consider what net zero carbon means for people and places?

PlaceShapers and Tpas have been considering how we can bring residents with us on the net zero carbon journey. Earlier this year we hosted a series of roundtable sessions with housing and sustainability professionals and social housing residents. Fifteen housing stakeholders and 101 residents registered to discuss how we can engage residents in the net zero carbon agenda.

It was clear that there are plenty of good reasons for residents to embrace their landlord’s decarbonisation challenge. From saving money on bills, to healthier, cleaner homes there are numerous positives that landlords can point out, to get residents onside.

However, underpinning all the potential benefits of low carbon housing was the clear message that people are concerned about climate change and want to do what they can to reduce the impact their homes have on the environment. Housing providers should ensure that their technical work such as retrofitting is firmly rooted within the context of a wider climate mission.

Demonstrating a commitment to sustainability isn’t just about improving existing stock either. Residents will be looking to see how housing providers demonstrate a true place-based approach to sustainability and embedding these values into their everyday work.

Communication is a huge challenge. Whilst the enthusiasm for tackling climate change was clear, so was the uncertainty about the technology and the measures that this will require. Residents will have a lot of questions on what the net zero carbon targets will mean for their home in the future and we must start considering how we will answer these questions. Carbon literacy training for customer-facing staff and a clear roadmap to 2050 would be invaluable, but for that more certainty and support from the government would be needed.

Social landlords’ success on the net zero carbon agenda will not only be judged by the carbon their homes produce but also through the satisfaction of their residents. Providing effective low carbon homes that people want and a day-to-day service with sustainability at its centre is a process residents will trust and support.

The full findings from our roundtable discussions can be found in our report Engaging with social housing residents on the UK’s journey to net zero carbon as well as a number of recommendations for both the government and social landlord on what should be done next.

This is just the start of our work to ensure resident voices are at the centre of the net zero carbon mission. If you would like to share your thoughts on the report or get involved in the next steps of this project you can contact us at

To support housing associations on the journey to net zero, the NHF has begun a major new project on decarbonisation.