Housing sector

Obstacles to housing renovation in the social housing sector

Gail Scholes, Local Authority Leader, Zenerguiexamines the ‘social anxiety’ of home renovations, how it will affect the most vulnerable and how we can overcome these issues

With 28.1 million households in the UK, the challenge of achieving Net Zero is significant. We need a retrofit solution that decarbonizes at scale and is affordable. The cost of retrofitting homes to Net Zero is estimated to be between £25,000 and £30,000, but the reality is that it is much higher. To reduce this cost, we must invest at scale in supply chain, emerging products and technologies, and drive a cultural shift that takes us to net zero.

In this article, we look at the different housing sectors and the possible implications for home renovations.

Decarbonization of social housing

Housing associations provide around 5 million homes in the UK, which means that they have a vital role to play in the decarbonisation of housing. Many are only at the beginning of this journey, but early decisions are the key to a successful strategy. It is important to develop the decarbonization plan with not only commercial values ​​but also the right investment in practical and social terms.

Elderly homeowners can often find themselves tied down to large family homes where rooms remain largely unoccupied, due to the financial pressure of heating the entire property to a comfortable level. These unoccupied rooms therefore become unoccupied with lack of maintenance leading to problems such as damp, mold and drafts. Aware of the conditions but limited by their physical abilities, the conditions remain untreated and continue to deteriorate.

Many of these properties will have been inhabited for decades and will have collected many possessions in the attic. Assuming the elderly homeowner is unable to sort out these items, the attic remains cluttered, limiting the scope for renovations. Thus, when renovating houses, it is equally important to take into account the practical aspects which will delay the process if not solved.

As a solution, organizations such as Age UK will have to help register decarbonisation plans. At the same time, it will provide visibility into the owner’s well-being and living conditions, while enabling installation procedures to be carried out efficiently. This in itself, however, requires a well thought out and engaging strategy to be well received by the target audience.

As a generation that is often reluctant to accept alms, it is our responsibility to provide a sensitive and helpful yet dignified support system.

Additional rogue landlord legislation needed

Another critical issue to consider is rogue landlords operating in the private rental sector who welcome those who want to stay under the radar. Our most vulnerable members of society have become easy prey to live in some of our worst housing conditions, often in properties that are unregistered and will see no investment in improving living conditions.

Attempts to solve this problem have already been carried out. Laws such as The Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act 2018 have been enforced to contain this problem, however, cases continue to slip through the cracks.

With the preview of decarbonisation rolling out, further legislation will need to be introduced. However, to ensure this runs smoothly, a surge in recruitment would be needed to equip the operation and carry out checks and investigations. Alternatively, financial incentives could potentially encourage these rogue homeowners to invest in insulating homes and improving living conditions.

Decarbonization plans for young people in sheltered housing

For those who have gone through the care system, reaching the age of eighteen is a crushing milestone. Having lived in assisted living all their lives, they will have to adapt quickly to life alone and the responsibilities that come with it. In terms of energy consumption and bills, it will be a foreign concept and the Net Zero approach will not make it any clearer.

To address this issue and prepare young adults, hands-on education and awareness must be introduced. Similar to the elderly sector, organizations specializing in caring for this particular social group will also need to work with decarbonisation plans. With this support network at their fingertips, young adults will become more climate conscious and can help eliminate greenhouse gases.

Achieving Net Zero goals is essential, but there is still a long way to go. Unfortunately, the solution is not unique. Different sectors and social groups need different incentives and orientations to ensure the renovation of existing buildings. For many groups this will revolve around financial help and support, but for others it will involve support networks and proper education. It’s also hard for homeowners to figure out what they should be doing proactively, when new government programs that partially fund heat pumps are offset by energy providers offering more affordable gas boiler replacements. Therefore, additional guidance and incentives should hopefully resolve this issue.