The organization will instead perform a property-by-property analysis on these hard-to-repair homes. “What is the impact on the customer? Can they get to work without a car, can they get to the supermarket instead of the corner store? There will be houses where the presence of a family does not make sense, and those which we will seek to get rid of,” he explains. “But if a property can only access EPC Band D but is in all other respects a good social house, it would be absurd to push it out.”
Meanwhile, Kevin Williamson, director of strategic asset management at Sovereign, explains that the organization has developed a “Homes and Place standard” and has graded all of its 60,000 homes against this technical standard, in considering durability and other factors.
“If you think about it at the community level, it could be an entire street or an entire estate – you have to recognize how disruptive this policy is. [selling when void] could be”
“We will sell houses, but we will sell them where they are vacant and wherever we sell a house, we will replace it with another new house. So we create social capital,” he says. “As a housing association, you have to ask yourself: why are we clinging to a property that we know is an underperforming asset when we could reinvest in a new, sustainable home, close to jobs? and transportation?
Social landlords must also consider that a disproportionate number of their residents live in fuel poverty. They cannot afford to convert to alternative carbon-free heat sources if it makes the situation worse. Most currently are — at least without the work needed to upgrade a home’s fabric so it requires less heating.
There is a policy prohibiting new gas connections for new construction from 2025, but no fixed date for gas cutoff for existing homes. However, if we are serious about reaching net zero, it will have to happen at some point and improvements are needed now to ensure we are ready when it does.
“We don’t yet know what happens when the gas goes away. Air and geothermal heat pumps will not work for all homes. If you were to simply replace a gas boiler with an electric one in 2025, energy bills would skyrocket,” says Ian Thomson, executive director of asset management at Magenta Living.
But there are homeowners who face all of these concerns and still rule out selling homes for sustainability reasons.
Robert Gilham, director of business strategy and assets at Walsall-based WHG, said the 21,000-home owner’s board looked into the matter and decided it wanted to take a ‘genuine’ approach to meet the net zero challenge. “We have stocks that will provide a negative NPV. We might consider getting rid of it and writing it into the business plan,” he says. “But we would outsource the problem to the private sector, which probably won’t.”
That’s not the only concern that accompanies large-scale sales of empty homes. “Because we operate in low value areas, we would be likely to sell to rental landlords and of course you have the consequences of that, which can lead to the slow decline of the neighborhood, in which we will remain the organization anchor,” he says. “Our first instinct is to say, in fact, we have to tackle the problem. Either we have to find a way to make the investment, or we have to look at the opportunities for regeneration.
Another senior official from a large organization that excludes sales adds: ‘If you think about it at a community level, it can be an entire street or an entire estate – you have to recognize how disruptive this policy is. [selling when void] could be.”