What’s next for the Future Homes Standard

Catherine Ryder, 02 February 2021

So much has changed over the last year since I first wrote about the need to prepare for the Future Homes Standard. Our country’s focus has rightly been on supporting people through the coronavirus crisis. But the need to tackle climate change hasn’t gone away. If anything, there is more political and public pressure to respond to the climate crisis and for our sector to build back better – to make our homes warmer, greener, cleaner and more affordable for residents to heat.

This means making existing homes more energy efficient and moving to low carbon forms of heating, a significant challenge we are only just beginning to get to grips with. But it also means building new homes to much higher environmental standards. To net zero standards. This is why we welcomed the Future Homes Standard consultation in 2019 and why we continue to support the introduction of a new Standard that will see carbon emissions need to be cut by 75-80% in homes built from 2025.

What is the Future Homes Standard?

We recently published a summary of the Future Homes Standard.

Some NHF members were concerned the proposals in the original consultation might not be ambitious enough. They were worried they would build homes to a new standard, only to find they still needed costly and disruptive work to make net zero further down the line. We made this point directly to officials and ministers. That’s why we welcome confirmation that homes built to the Future Homes Standard should not require any retrofit. The intention is that these homes will become net zero once the electricity grid is decarbonised.

Some members also wanted to see the government introduce the Future Homes Standard more quickly. It is great to see housing associations being so ambitious and we know some are already committed to going further and faster than current targets or regulations require. But we think the introduction of the interim uplift in the carbon emissions target for new homes from this year is a useful stepping stone to 2025.

On technology, despite the increasing focus on heat pumps, the government remains technology-neutral. We recognise that technology is evolving fast but we need to be confident that by the time the Future Homes Standard is introduced in 2025, we have the materials and techniques we need to build homes that are truly fit for the future.

What’s next?

We all know there will be many challenges ahead and that the journey to net zero will not be an easy one.

On new homes, we will be supporting members through the introduction of the interim uplift in building standards, including how this may impact on any new homes you build through the new Affordable Homes Programme. We will also engage members fully in the technical consultation on the Future Homes Standard due in 2023.

And on decarbonising existing homes, we will continue to provide a voice for housing associations, to shape and influence the policy agenda, to work with government to deliver a Social Housing Decarbonisation Fund and to support cooperation and collaboration across the sector.

Because, even though the challenges are significant, the benefits are huge: warmer homes, cheaper fuel bills, healthier and happier residents, greener communities and a better planet.