How the government could use the Autumn Statement to help the UK reach net zero by 2050

Kate Henderson, 16 November 2023

Housing associations are committed to the vital work of retrofitting their residents’ homes. This is not only essential if the UK is to meet its net zero targets but also necessary to provide energy efficient, comfortable homes that are affordable for residents to heat.

The £3.8bn committed through the Social Housing Decarbonisation Fund (SHDF) in the 2019 Conservative Manifesto has been instrumental in helping housing associations on their journey to reduce carbon emissions. The SHDF has provided valuable support to housing associations as they start to decarbonise social homes across the country and it also enables them build up supply chains, create local jobs and address fuel poverty.   

Over the past few months, my colleagues and I have visited a number of projects made possible with SHDF funding. We’ve been meeting residents delighted by improvements to their homes and spoken to landlords about the process.

Last week, I was in Coventry to see how Citizen Housing have completed their SHDF Wave 1 project in partnership with Coventry City Council. In Coventry, 20.8% of households are living in fuel poverty and the SHDF is helping to alleviate this by improving the energy efficiency of the city’s social homes. Coventry City Council were awarded £23.9m in Wave 2.1 of the SHDF for their consortium bid which will enable them to retrofit over 2,000 social homes across the city.

On this visit, I saw for myself the impact the SHDF is having on the city, both for residents who are getting warmer, more energy efficient homes and for the local economy. Citizen have recruited their own dedicated retrofit team to lead on their SHDF work, and their contractor has set up a facility to deliver training in external wall insulation. This has created 30 full time jobs, which is helping to meet shortages in the labour market for specialist retrofit trades.  

It was wonderful to see such effective collaboration between Citizen Housing, Coventry City Council and the contractors they work with. By working together, they are able to scale their retrofit works to effectively tackle fuel poverty in the city. All of this is only possible with the grant funding from the SHDF.

In fact, collaboration has been a key theme across all the SHDF projects we’ve visited recently. In July, I visited a project in Tonbridge where Clarion worked with council partners to deliver external wall and loft insulation, double-glazing and ventilation systems in residents’ homes.

Partnership between housing associations and local authorities is essential to retrofitting the country’s social homes.  However, this work is costly for the sector. Housing associations already plan to invest £70bn by 2050 in the fabric, heating systems and components of their residents’ homes, but analysis from Savills shows that decarbonising all existing housing association homes will require at least an additional £36bn of investment.

The SHDF provides a strong start to filling that gap and has been essential to the progress made so far. This was highlighted in a recent visit to North London where Peabody showed NHF Chair, Maggie Galliers, examples of newly insulated homes, again made possible only with SHDF funding.

In addition to the collaboration that the SHDF encourages between housing associations, local authorities and other local stakeholders, the SHDF also brings vital collaboration between the government and the social housing sector. We have been very pleased to work closely with government officials on the design of the SHDF. However, with only around a third of the £3.8bn fund released so far, the scope and scale of retrofit projects could be much greater.

Releasing the full remaining SHDF beyond 2025 would provide certainty for housing associations, enabling them to plan and contract for the large-scale projects needed. In turn, this would unlock supply chains and provide thousands of highly skilled jobs for years to come, boosting our economy. With this in mind, we urge the government to use the Autumn Statement to reaffirm its commitment to the SHDF by releasing the remainder of the fund. This would recognise both the immediate and long-term benefits of decarbonising our homes.