Invest in energy-efficient homes for COVID-19 recovery, Together Housing says

A set of houses with solar panels installed on them in Colne, Lancashire.

Investing in energy-efficient homes and tackling climate change is key to the country’s economic recovery from the COVID-19 crisis, Together Housing Group has stressed.

The housing association, which manages over 36,000 homes across Yorkshire and Lancashire, is backing for the National Housing Federation’s Homes at the Heart campaign, which calls for a ‘once in a generation’ investment in social housing.

This week, the coalition backing the campaign are urging the government to invest in decarbonising and retrofitting homes to put homes at the heart of making the UK a greener country.

Steve Close, group chief executive at Together Housing Group, said: “Few organisations have the ability to help fulfil the government’s decarbonisation and employment ambitions in the way that housing associations do. A big part of our core purpose is to invest in our communities and people to enable them to have access to quality housing and to thrive.

“Bringing forward the decarbonisation funding that has been promised will mean that housing associations in the north are able to mobilise plans to retrofit thousands of homes, build new energy efficient housing and create much needed employment and career opportunities in the process.

“We have the infrastructures, skills and expertise to deliver on these ambitions if we can access the support we need from the government.”

Earlier this year in his Summer Economic Update the Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced several green measures for the housing sector, such as the £3.8 billion Social Housing Decarbonisation Fund and the £2 billion Green Homes Grant, which subsidises energy-saving home improvements.

However, Together Housing, part of the Northern Housing Consortium (NHC), says the government should use the autumn Spending Review to provide an economic package for the sector that will help deliver its priorities of levelling up, net zerol and new homes.

The NHC, which represents over 90% of social housing providers in the North, says that helping housing providers to decarbonise existing homes and build new homes will create 20,000 jobs across the North of England.

The NHC has called on the government to use the upcoming spending review to release more investment for the Social Housing Decarbonisation Fund, which would enable social landlords to improve the least energy-efficient social rented homes.

Doing this, it says, would help to improve the North’s typically older and colder homes, make fuel bills more affordable for tenants, and reduce strain on the NHS. It would also help the government achieve its net zero targets.

Together Housing has already looked to embrace the net zero agenda as it has been piloting a solar battery and PV project across 250 of its homes in Nelson and Colne in Lancashire, a project covered in the last issue of Northern Housing.

Patrick Berry, managing director of Together Energy Services, part of Together Housing Group, added: “The social housing sector has a major role to play in meeting the net zero challenge and leading the transition to energy efficient renewable heat and power in homes.

“Together Housing has begun its journey to meet the carbon reduction challenges but recognises that it has only taken the first step. The projects we have developed around renewable heat, solutions for new build properties and solar PV and battery systems have been designed to provide proof of concept so that much larger investments can be made across our stock.

“Underpinning this approach is the aim to use energy assets as investments that generate revenue in the emerging markets, and power purchase agreements that enable cheaper energy bills for tenants. This approach is a step change in traditional thinking.”

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