Leading a green future – why it matters to housing associations

We have 12 years to limit climate change catastrophe, warned the UN in its recent Special report on climate change by the Intergovernmental Panel on climate change.

And the UK government has identified a particular role for housing providers in addressing the challenge.

It could have very easily been missed but what was referred to within the recent Social Housing Green Paper within the context of a review of the Decent Homes Standard, was the forthcoming consultation on a new energy efficiency standard.

The proposal being that all homes within the sector will have an energy performance rating of Band C by 2030.

The 16-17 English Housing Survey reported that 50% of social rented properties held a Band C energy performance rating.

If regulatory change is introduced a massive two million properties will require heating system upgrades and or improved insulation over the next 11 years.

Of course, there is caveat as it will only be necessary “…where practical, cost effective and affordable.” This could be a major strategic challenge facing Housing providers.

Despite a possible get-out clause on the energy efficiency issue, new regulation or otherwise, Boards still need to keep corporate social responsibility in their mindset.

The energy efficiency issue is two pronged. Firstly, energy efficient homes can improve the lives of fuel poor households.

Enabling residents to switch on their heating during the colder months reduces the need for self-imposed energy rationing, which risks poor health outcomes and even early death. Secondly, there is an environmental benefit.

Energy efficient homes are better for our planet and assist the UK to meet carbon reduction targets. 13% of all UK Carbon emissions come from homes of all tenure.

The government’s 2017 Clean Growth Strategy sets out a clear pathway for continued reductions in emissions, to decarbonise the UK and increase economic growth in clean energy.

From 2023 – 2032, the government’s strategy demands rapid decarbonisation.

This includes the phasing out of carbon fossil fuels in new and existing homes so that they come off the gas grid during the 2020s.

The organisation known as SHIFT (Sustainable Homes Index for Tomorrow) are currently working with housing providers to research what the impacts of decarbonisation will be on the Sector and how they can assist landlords to prepare.

Enabling residents to access secure, low carbon and affordable energy sources will be a key strategic requirement in the coming decade.

Housing association Executives and Boards will need to keep an eye on the horizon to ensure that long term financial planning and commitment can facilitate future regulatory change in this area.

Organisations may be faced with the costs of large scale energy efficiency improvements but also the costs of retrofitting properties to enable the delivery of cheaper and renewable energy sources. The good news is that there are predictions for an 11% annual growth in the Carbon Economy by 2030.

Boards must not lose sight of the opportunities that present themselves within this new and rapidly developing industry.

The sector must continue engagement with the renewable energy industry to ensure that our residents benefit from this economic growth by accessing low cost renewable energy but also in the potential economic benefits this may bring to communities.

The sector should be bold in meeting not just the challenges of the Social Housing Green Paper, but also the challenges of delivering a Green future.