Three quarters of housing associations already on journey to net zero

10 December 2020

Almost three quarters (74%) of housing associations are already drawing up plans for how to make their homes 'net zero' by 2050, according to a survey from the National Housing Federation. 

The survey of 79 housing associations in England, found that almost 1 in 10 (8%) have a fully agreed plan in place, whilst work is in progress for the remaining 66%.  

At the beginning of December, the government set new targets aimed at making the UK carbon neutral or 'net zero' by 2050. The UK will not meet this deadline unless existing homes are decarbonised and made "greener, warmer and more efficient". Homes contribute around a fifth of all greenhouse gas emissions in the country, largely from the oil and gas used for heating and hot water. Around 10% of these emissions come from the social housing sector.   

As part of this 2050 vision, the government has said it wants to consult on how social housing can be made more energy efficient, with all social homes upgraded to Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) Band C by 2030 where possible. But, the survey found that housing associations are well ahead of any consultation. Nearly 8 in 10 (79%) of the housing associations surveyed said they either already had a plan in place, or were drawing up a plan, to achieve this.   

However, despite this progress, housing associations still have concerns about the scale of the retrofit challenge ahead of them. Housing associations said the main barriers for delivering on their net zero ambitions were concerns about funding and financing, followed by uncertainty over government policy.  

Rob Wall, Head of Policy at the National Housing Federation – which represents housing associations, says: 

"Housing associations are passionate about cutting their carbon footprint and making their homes greener and warmer for residents. They are motivated by the economic, social and scientific benefits that decarbonisation delivers. 

"But, they are also acutely aware that they are only at the beginning of a complex and challenging journey. We’ve estimated that housing associations will need to retrofit around 2.1m homes over the next 30 years. To deliver this, we will need a retrofit revolution. 

"We share the government’s ambition to tackle climate change and welcome the recent commitments from the Prime Minister. Housing associations have started to prepare, but can’t do this alone. We need to work in partnership with the government – and with residents, local agencies, investors and businesses – if we are to transform our social homes to net zero by 2050." 

The National Housing Federation is calling on the government to: 

  • deliver a £3.8bn Social Housing Decarbonisation Fund and work with the sector on a long-term sustainable funding solution for the decarbonisation of social homes.  
  • co-create a comprehensive "road map" for the sector, which will set out a plan for making all housing association homes net zero by 2050. This could provide a template for the roll-out of a national retrofit programme across all tenures. 

The full survey results can be found here.

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