Our new drive to decarbonise homes

Rob Wall is Interim Head of Policy at the National Housing Federation
Rob Wall is Interim Head of Policy at the National Housing Federation

Rob Wall, 05 June 2020

Back in April, we set out our plans for recovery, outlining a significant programme of work designed to help housing associations, residents and communities emerge stronger from the coronavirus crisis.

One strand of our recovery plan focuses on decarbonisation. On how our sector can support jobs and growth, improve the lives of residents and play our part in tackling climate change by driving forward work on retrofitting and cutting carbon emissions.

On World Environment Day, I want to set out the case for a renewed focus on retrofitting and add the NHF’s voice to the calls from many quarters to build back better.

The scale of the challenge

Residential housing is responsible for 22% of all UK emissions (if emissions from consumed electricity are included), and social housing contributes 10% of this. Decarbonising social housing is therefore critical to achieving the government’s ambition of net zero carbon emissions by 2050.

The social housing sector has a good track record in delivering thermally efficient homes, and has already taken a leadership role when it comes to cutting emissions. However, there are significant challenges to overcome if we are to retrofit at scale and decarbonise by 2050.

Studies completed by both the Institute of Engineering and Technology and BEIS have highlighted the challenges that the sector faces. These include a lack of finance, of clear and consistent government policy, of capacity and capability in the supply chain and of consumer demand. We have heard similar concerns raised by housing associations.

Time to build back better

Investment in green projects and green infrastructure has the potential to play a major role in creating jobs and stimulating the economy as we emerge from the coronavirus crisis. Indeed, recent research from Oxford University suggests that green forms of investment deliver a better return on investment than more traditional forms of economic stimulus.

And there are increasing calls from all sectors for the government to deliver a coronavirus recovery plan that priorities investment in green projects and in the environment. This includes calls from leaders from a wide range of industry sectors including energy, finance and construction.

Now is the time to build back better.

We can deliver cleaner, greener homes and communities. We can tackle fuel poverty and cut fuel bills. We can deliver a step-change in tackling climate change. And we should.

Our next steps

This is why a new drive to decarbonise social housing forms a key part of the NHF’s recovery programme – alongside our ambition to end rough sleeping, deliver a new generation of affordable homes, help people thrive at home, and support communities across the country. We will be sharing more information about this programme soon.

Our work on decarbonisation has only recently begun, but we already know that through this work we want show sector leadership, improve cooperation and collaboration, increase our policy impact and help overcome the challenges that housing associations face.

But we know that the sector cannot overcome these challenges alone. The government, local partners, residents, lenders and investors all have a vital role to play. So, alongside engaging widely with our members, we will also be engaging with these wider partners and stakeholders over the coming weeks.

If you want to be directly involved, or have any questions about this work, please contact me.

In the meantime, I’d like to wish you a Happy World Environment Day!