The decarbonisation of social housing will have benefits way beyond housing itself, says a new independent think tank report.
The Centre for Social Justice (CSJ) claims that making the nation’s homes more energy efficient – essential to realising the UK’s net zero targets – will trigger a huge rise in the demand for labour in coming years.
Figures from the Energy Efficiency Infrastructure Group suggest that bringing all homes up to EPC rating C would support nearly 130,000 jobs in housing retrofit in England.
The report, ‘Better Insulate Than Never’, also argues that social housing decarbonisation would go some way to rebalancing regional inequalities, supporting the Government’s levelling up agenda.
The report, commissioned by Greener Futures Partnership (GFP), which is up of five of the UK’s largest housing associations – Abri, Anchor, Home Group, Hyde and Sanctuary – includes a range of recommendations which will help housing associations reach their, and the UK’s net zero aims.
Funding, training and skills feature heavily among them.
The recommendations in the CSJ report sync with Greener Futures Partnership (GFP) observations and asks.
The GFP feel a more strategic partnership approach to funding and delivery would support upscaling and long-term delivery, while greater opportunity for private investment models would further help achieve scale and manage variable cost spikes.
They also feel a pragmatic review of the implementation process, and a holistic approach between Government departments would ensure clarity on grant layering.
The GFP agrees with the CSJ report when it says that robust local authority level data on green jobs should be developed to assist decarbonisation plans, and statutory guidance for all Local Skills Improvement Plans should be strengthened to ensure they are harnessing the opportunities of net zero.
The GFP and CSJ are joined up in recommending that an accredited skills programme is needed to deliver the upskilling required at scale to transition to alternative heat sources.
In addition, the GFP believe the Department for Education needs to keep pace with the changes in order to support further education colleges and universities to provide suitable courses.
The ‘Better Insulate Than Never’ report also addresses regional delivery, an area the GFP feel is significant if they are to achieve their net zero goals.
The GFP is calling on local authorities, private investors, and contractors within the areas they operate to work with them to identify innovative financial mechanisms to green their homes and communities.
They also want to see the sector play a key role in helping local SMEs scale up to support regional delivery, and explore opportunities with devolved authorities, to understand how they will bring forward additional funding and frameworks for scaling up.
Gary Orr, Chair of Greener Futures Partnership, welcomed the CSJ report: “We all know in the sector the challenges ahead, and if we are going to achieve our aims then we need support, as well as innovative and bold approaches.
“The CSJ report strikes a chord with us. Its recommendations and asks largely match our own. Funding, training, skills and regional delivery are areas that need attention.
“If they get it, not only does it bring major benefits for the millions of people in social housing, but delivers tangible solutions to tackle the patent skills gap, as well as the economic inequalities across significant parts of the country.
“The CSJ report is one of a number of independent reports commissioned by the GFP since setting up 18 months ago as we look, collaboratively, at the most effective ways to deliver on our, and the UK’s agreed net zero targets.”
The CSJ report comes on the heels of Rishi Sunak’s decision to change the transition to net zero, while committing to still meeting the 2050 target.
The CSJ insists it is not demanding a big increase in state spending, but says money already spent by the Government should be made to work harder – delivering decarbonisation while spreading prosperity across the country.
Original polling included in the report finds that business bosses are optimistic about the economic opportunities of net zero. The report also finds, however, that business leaders lack confidence in Government’s ability to deliver on these opportunities, with just 42 per cent saying the UK is prepared for the ‘economy of the future’.
The CSJ insists that skills and job training, such as quality apprenticeships, are critical to a ‘win-win’ agenda of creating new jobs while cleaning up the environment – all at relatively low cost to the taxpayer.
The GFP will be making its recommendations known to Labour MPs at their party conference this week.