Net zero by 2050: a decarbonisation roadmap for housing associations

Kate Henderson, 08 April 2021

I know from talking to NHF members over recent months that there is real determination and ambition when it comes to making our homes greener and warmer for residents, and tackling climate change. I also know that there are real concerns about the scale of the challenge we face and many unanswered questions about how we will retrofit well over two million properties across the sector in the next 30 years.

And I know that for many members these concerns are amplified by the need to provide essential safety remediation work on a large number of buildings and the pressure to deliver thousands of new affordable homes.

This is why the issue of sustainability features more prominently in the new NHF business plan.

This is also why we have launched a major new project on decarbonisation.

There are many challenges when it comes to decarbonising homes and cutting carbon emissions. Where do we start? What technology should we use? How do we engage and enthuse residents? How do we build capability and capacity in supply chains? How best can we cooperate and collaborate more effectively as a sector?

But the concerns I hear expressed most frequently are around how we fund and finance the work given the significant costs involved and the pressures members are already under, and around how we plan and prepare for 2050 given the lack of policy and regulatory clarity.

And these are the very issues we will be exploring through our new project on decarbonisation.

We need to be realistic about what can be achieved at this stage, and recognise that there are many questions that cannot yet be answered. However, the project will attempt to set out the scale of the challenge we face, define net zero for the sector, provide advice on how to calculate carbon emissions and estimate the size of the sector’s carbon footprint. It will also provide a high level policy roadmap to 2050 to help members prepare and plan for a net zero future.

On funding, the project will examine the costs of decarbonisation and explore a range of funding solutions, including the possible role of grants, loans, private investment and incentives. It will also explore in detail the issue of warm rents, which I know many members have strong views on.

We have commissioned Savills and SHIFT, a consultancy that specialises in sustainability in the built environment, to support the project. This will ensure that we draw on a strong evidence base when developing our positions and recommendations.

I know that individual members and groups of members are also exploring many of the same issues. We will seek to work with all members throughout the project and draw on research and good practice where it already exists.

Next steps

Although the project has now started, we are still putting some of our project structures in place. However, over the next couple of months we plan to share our thinking and emerging conclusions and engage with members through a variety of channels. We hope to publish our final conclusions in the early Autumn and use the UN Conference on Climate Change (COP26) in November as a platform to share our findings more widely and engage politicians and policy makers on our recommendations.

We will post regular updates here and in our newsletters. We will also be discussing many of these issues at our Climate Change and Sustainability in Housing Conference (21-22 April).

I look forward to working with you on this key issue over 2021 and helping to deliver a cleaner, greener future for all.