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Report outlines social housing sustainable heat challenge

The Sustainable Energy Association has published new findings that demand funding reforms and urgent introduction of the ‘future homes standard’ to meet UK net-zero carbon aims

Urgent implementation of the government’s ‘future homes standard’ and setting a date for ending the use of fossil fuel heating systems in social housing are identified as vital steps to meeting the government’s net-zero carbon targets, a new report has concluded.

The Sustainable Energy Association report has set out a number of recommendations to ensure social housing can play a vital role to curb UK carbon emissions entirely by 2050 amidst concerns that not enough is being done by industry or government to support the sector.

It is feared in the report that the entire residential sector, which is estimated to account for 22 per cent of UK carbon emissions, requires significant policy amendments to decarbonise homes across the country.

Sustainable Energy Association president Lord Best said that the findings indicated that social housing providers were ahead of the private sector in reducing environmental impacts by accounting for 17 per cent of the residential housing stock, despite being responsible for 10 per cent of emissions.

He said this was the case for both new and retrofit properties. However, Lord Best said that local authorities and housing associations must do more to implement lower and zero-carbon techniques and technologies

The association said, “The analysis within the report reveals that whilst social housing emissions will continue to fall modestly up to 2050, this will not be enough to reach net-zero. A combination of deep retrofit of existing social housing, far greater standards in new-builds and rapid market growth of low carbon heating systems is required. We must ensure that regulations and standards are adequate, that funding is accessible as well as available and that homes are built and perform as designed.”

Core recommendations in the report include urging government to introduce legislation that would see all UK homes being required to meet at least EPC band C by 2035. The report demanded that this same goal be realised in social housing by 2030.

Commitments to introduce a Future Homes Standard should be introduced as soon as possible, with a revised a Decent Homes Standard also being realised, are identified by the association as other vital requirements, the report concluded. This would ensure that new homes could be future proofed as soon as possible.

Fresh funding packages were seen by the association as being vital to support more energy efficient social housing.

The report has also backed ensuring there is increased monitoring of new build homes and properties procured via Section 106 in order to close potential performance gaps between the design and as-built performance of a property.

Sustainable Energy Association chief executive Lesley Rudd said that social housing providers had a long-term interest in the quality of homes and the communities in which they are based.

She said, “At the [recent] SEA roundtable held in the House of Lords, housing providers expressed their concern about climate change and demonstrated a willingness to take on the challenge, however, they also highlighted the significant obstacles they face, particularly with funding.”

“There is a real opportunity for the social housing sector to lead the way in reaching net-zero, but to take advantage of that opportunity, stable and consistent policy together with funding support is required.”

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