Social Housing – What Happens After You Declare A Climate Emergency?

Over 60% of local authorities in the UK have declared a climate emergency and 120 have said that they intend to be net carbon zero by 2030. These are hugely significant commitments. Local authorities are key players in the UK’s journey towards a more sustainable future.

The climate emergency touches almost every area of council business. Transport and infrastructure are obvious areas that come to mind. But most local authorities realise that their biggest challenges lie in housing.

For one thing, the scale of the work needed is largely unknown. If social housing is going to be sufficiently energy efficient for a local authority to be carbon neutral by 2030, thousands of homes will need to move up several levels in their EPC ratings. What does that mean for the insulation and sustainable energy supplies that have to be installed? And how does that fit into the broader objective to make all UK homes net zero carbon by 2050?

Efficient and Practical Solutions

The task for local authorities, housing associations and property services partners is huge and we all need to work together urgently to plot an efficient and practical way forward.

The biggest questions of all surround how to rationalise the process so that it’s cost-effective and streamlined. This will make the best use of resources (financial and human) and cause as little disruption to residents as possible.

The main success factors include:

  • Assessing the scale of the task. A detailed asset condition survey will establish the current energy performance status of the stock. This is the basis for identifying the retrofit actions that are needed and feasible given the age and construction method of each property.
  • Planning a rationalized upgrade programme that is integrated with overall property services provision is needed.
  • Getting to net zero carbon by the most efficient route calls for a wide range of expertise and skills. Early engagement with suitable specialists will help quantify the task and identify opportunities to optimise and industrialize processes.
  • For some properties it won’t be feasible or cost-effective to bring them up to the required standard. Plans will be needed to dispose of and replace these homes. There will be a delicate balance between achieving the biggest impact quickly and long-term costs and efficiencies.
  • Skills, supply chains and social value. With careful planning and coordinated action there’s a huge opportunity to deliver transformational levels of social value as we build the capacity required.
  • Finance and Cash Flow. The retrofit programme will be expensive. Significant up-front investment will be needed in skills, supply chains and materials before the benefits start to appear. Innovative approaches to procurement and finance are called for to deliver the required flexibility and transparency.

Responding to the climate emergency creates a huge and complex task for social housing. Realistically, nobody currently has all the answers. This means that those responsible for social housing provision, property services partners and energy efficiency specialists need to start working together urgently on multi-faceted solutions.

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