Around three-quarters of housing associations in England have either drawn up plans or are in the process of drawing up plans to become net-zero by 2050, according to new research by the National Housing Federation (NHF).
In a survey of 79 housing associations, almost one in 10 (8%) said they have a fully agreed plan in place, while the remaining 66% said work is in progress.
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, it said, unless existing homes are decarbonised and made “greener, warmer, and more efficient”.
Housing contributes 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 the 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.
However, the NHF survey found that housing associations are well ahead of any consultation, with nearly eight in 10 (79%) of those surveyed drawing up a plan if they had not already had one in place to achieve EPC C.
Despite progress, housing associations still have concerns about the scale of the retrofit challenge ahead of them.
Responding to the NHF survey, providers 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 NHF, said: “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.”
Wall added: “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 government – and with residents, local agencies, investors, and businesses – if we are to transform our social homes to net-zero by 2050.”
The NHF, the “voice” of affordable housing in England, 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 ‘roadmap’ for the sector, which will set out a plan for making all housing association homes net zero by 2050
- NHF says this could provide a template for the rollout of a national retrofit programme across all tenures
The NHF’s research on barriers to retrofit was carried out in August 2020, receiving a total of 79 total responses from housing associations.
The respondents varied in size, with medium-size organisations (owning between 10,000-19,999 homes) most represented.
The majority of responses came from organisations based in each region of England, though this spread was not even, with most head offices based in London.
The results cover only the housing associations who responded to the survey, and are not representative of all housing associations.
The results are not weighted or adjusted.
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