Housing sector

Net Zero: Challenges for the social housing sector

The Scottish Parliament has set a target for Scotland to become a net zero carbon country, society and economy by 2045. Heat inside buildings accounts for around a fifth of all carbon emissions. Scotland’s greenhouse gases, making the housing sector a key element in the drive to reach net zero.

The Scottish Government has published a Housing at the road map 2040, which sets out the government’s ambitions for the housing sector in Scotland over the next eighteen years. The roadmap’s guiding principle that decisions in the housing sector should be consistent with the goal of net zero by 2045. In a social housing context, relevant bodies should consider the goal of net zero throughout the planning, development and implementation of social programs. housing initiatives.

While recent events have taken ‘net zero’ out of the headlines, it is clear that achieving ‘net zero’ by 2045 will be one of the most important tasks facing the social housing sector. over the next few decades. In this blog, we outline below some key challenges facing the social housing sector as it strives to achieve net zero.

1. Uncertainty surrounding the performance of heat pumps and electric heating technology

Social landlords have faced challenges in the past when trying to meet energy efficiency standards in homes – initially the Scottish Housing Quality Standard, then the Energy Efficiency Standard for Social Housing . To meet these standards, social homeowners have had to contend with older heating technologies, touted to homeowners as energy efficient, which have not performed as expected in homes as they age.

Heat pumps and other forms of electric heating are currently seen as playing a key role in achieving net zero targets for social housing by promoting energy efficiency and reducing dependence on fossil fuel sources. One will wonder if electric heating technology will face the same problems as previous forms of heating technologies. Social landlords must therefore ensure the effective performance of heat pumps and other electric heating technologies in terms of promoting energy efficiency and reducing the use of fossil fuels.

2. Social housing within a mixed occupancy block

A challenge in social housing in general is that social housing often exists in mixed tenancy blocks. Some of the owners inside the blocks will be private owners. It is not the responsibility of private owners to switch to more sustainable heating methods in the homes they own. Some social landlords may therefore face a challenge in soliciting the cooperation of private landlords to invest in energy efficient heating systems or other improvements that require a ‘whole building’ approach.

3. Cost of zero-emission heating systems and other changes

Zero-emission heating systems can be expensive to install. Maintenance and running costs can also be significantly higher than gas heating systems. Significant modifications can often be required for buildings; for example, creating the space needed to install a hot water tank. Homeowners in more rural or island areas may face particular challenges, where geographic logistics can drive up costs. Social landlords will therefore need to carefully consider how they offer to pay for the installation of zero-emission heating systems, and to what extent these costs can or should be passed on to tenants.

The cost of changes within the social housing sector more generally to comply with the Scottish Government’s net zero targets is an important test for the social housing sector, particularly at a time of rising costs for tenants and landlords considerably. A key challenge for the social housing sector will be to balance decarbonisation goals with maintaining affordable housing for tenants and meeting their legal obligations to both.

The Scottish Government recently announced the Net zero heating fund for social housing which will provide up to £500,000 to small and medium-sized social housing providers to undertake development work, helping them deliver a business plan to achieve net zero in existing housing. The call for funding is open now and will close on May 30, 2022.

The Scottish and UK Governments will publish new strategies and guidance to achieve their ‘net zero’ targets.