Research report: where are housing associations on the path to net zero?

10 December 2020

Housing associations have a critical role to play in delivering the government’s ambition for net zero carbon emissions, and responding to the climate crisis. But where are housing associations on the path to net zero? We recently surveyed our housing association members, and results showed that:

  • Housing associations are at the beginning of the journey to net zero. Around 1 in 10 (8%) survey respondents have a plan to ensure that homes are carbon neutral by 2050. Two thirds (66%) have started to plan.
  • Social housing already outperforms other tenures in terms of energy efficiency, and this looks set to continue. Around one third (30%) of survey respondents already have a plan to bring their homes to at least Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) Band C by 2030. Half (49%) have started to plan and expect to bring their homes to at least EPC Band C by 2030.
  • Housing associations are committed to making homes greener and warmer for residents. Survey respondents cite the need to tackle climate change (69%), tackle fuel poverty (69%), improve resident satisfaction, health and wellbeing (51%) and cut fuel bills for residents (49%) as key drivers for retrofitting their homes.
  • Housing associations face significant challenges in retrofitting homes. Survey respondents report that the lack of finance (74%), policy uncertainty (56%), concerns around technology (47%), conflicting organisational priorities (40%) and the lack of capacity and capability in supply chains (34%) as the major barriers to retrofitting at scale and pace.
  • Despite these challenges, the sector has started to retrofit. Three quarters (74%) of survey respondents expect to retrofit homes in 2020-21. A similar proportion (73%) expect to retrofit homes in 2021-22.

The results from this survey makes it clear that there are a number of significant challenges to overcome – but housing associations are putting plans in place and are committed to tackling climate change, and making homes greener and warmer for residents.

The need for sustainable funding and policy clarity are the most significant challenges, but we are now seeing the government coming forward with new investment and more detail around their net zero plans. The sector itself is also coming together to work through these challenges and develop sector solutions. But housing associations cannot do this alone. This needs to be a partnership approach, working with residents, national government, local agencies, investors, lenders and suppliers.

At the NHF we are supporting our members to achieve net zero by 2050. To find out more about this work, visit our climate and sustainability webpages.

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