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Mayor of London launches £3.6m social housing retrofit plan

Funding set aside specifically to transform heat, energy and insulation in public sector-managed homes as part of larger low carbon transformation plan for the capital

The Mayor of London’s Office has announced a £3.6m programme to support the retrofit of public sector-managed homes to incorporate lower-carbon heating, insulation and alternative energy solutions.

Mayor Sadiq Khan has identified social housing properties as a major opportunity for decarbonisation by granting an opportunity to introduce improvements to entire blocks or streets in a way that can improve installation and materials costs.

Key ambitions for the new ‘Retrofit Accelerator for Homes’ programme includes backing work to replace building fabric such as walls, windows, floors and roofs to improve insulation, while also revising existing heating systems in properties. Where possible, technologies designed to make use or capitalise on renewable energy, such as solar panels and heat pumps, will also be supported through the financing.

A further focus of the programme will be to provide housing associations and local authorities in the capital with advice and guidance on moving to adopt larger scale energy efficiency programmes in a drive to meet Mayor Kahn’s ambitions for London to become carbon neutral by 2030.

According to the Mayor’s office, the £3.6m fund to support public sector adoption of low carbon heat is part of a larger £34m finance pot intended to a viable path for London to become a zero-carbon city.

Mr Khan has said that “ageing and energy-inefficient homes” in the capital were linked to a third of London’s greenhouse gas emission.

He added, “I’ve pledged for London to be carbon-neutral by 2030 if re-elected. It is an ambition which requires forward-thinking local authorities and housing associations to commit to this dynamic new movement to transform social housing and take a significant step towards London meeting its zero-carbon targets and help tackle fuel poverty.”

Mr Khan cited a similar retrofit project in Nottingham last year that resulted in home that had become ultra-low energy witnessing as 25 per cent uplift in market value.

Neal Ackcral, chief property officer with housing group Hyde, said that the UK’s push to become a net-zero carbon country was an opportunity to rethink issues such as heating and fuel poverty in its building stock.

He said, “The mayor’s Retrofit Accelerator programme is supporting Hyde to understand the scale of investment required in London, identify solutions for different types of homes and develop opportunities to deliver net zero carbon buildings cost effectively.”

A range of cities across the UK have over the last year announced lower carbon plans that will have a drastic impact on building policy. The Greater Manchester Combined Authority has proposed that all new building developments in the city region are ‘net zero carbon’ by 2028.

The devolved body, which is made up of eight principal towns and a number of other local and suburban centres, also hopes to ensure the region can become carbon neutral by 2038.

Bristol have also committed to its own carbon neutral targets, hoping to have achieved the milestone by 2030.

UK net-zero ambitions

These proposals bring forward the UK government’s own target to fully eliminate or offset national carbon emissions by 2050. The net-zero commitment was passed into law last year, with industry now looking for greater detail over the course of 2020 on how this might be possible.

Government has committed to releasing a heat roadmap this year that is expected to start out major steps on transforming heating in homes and other buildings. Meanwhile, a consultation on finalising a proposed Future Homes Standard that will introduce revised restrictions and requirements around energy efficiency and building services functions has stopped taking feedback earlier this month.

However, Mayor Khan, a Labour Party representative standing for re-election this year, has accused the UK government of falling short in its efforts to reduce domestic carbon emissions when compared to targets set out in his own administration’s 2016 London Plan.

He argued that targets for new homes set to be introduced under the Future Homes standard were 25 per cent lower than commitments previously set out for London.

The mayor also argued that suggested amendments to the 2008 Planning Act would limit the powers of local authorities to set tougher carbon reduction requirements than those backed by government and therefore would undermine regional innovation across the country.

Mr Khan said, “Hundreds of local authorities across England have declared climate emergencies – yet these proposals would hold back both the councils and developers who want to go further and faster to decarbonise new homes. London has shown how higher carbon reduction targets can be met while still delivering much-needed new homes.”

“In a year in which the UK Government is supposed to be showing global leadership on climate change by hosting COP26, the government must show willingness to act and drop these damaging proposals – we cannot go forward by going back.”

Kate Gordon, a senior planner for environmental NGO Friends of the Earth, accused the government of stifling innovative low carbon policy in areas such as London at a time when pressure is growing across the country to ensure buildings are more energy efficient.

She said, “If the government is serious about the climate emergency it should allow local authorities to set their own planning policies to deliver zero carbon, energy efficient development - as the London Plan rightly seeks to do. Building and development standards everywhere need to be made much tighter, otherwise we’re left with homes that will need costly retrofits in the future. It is completely right that we plan and build homes to the highest climate standards.”

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