Ministers should bring forward the funding timetable for the government’s £3.8bn Social Housing Decarbonisation Fund (SHDF) and allow housing associations to lead bids, MPs have said.
In a 76-page report published yesterday by parliament’s Environmental Audit Committee (EAC), MPs called on the government to release more of the funds that were promised in the Conservatives’ 2019 election bid earlier.
More widely, the EAC’s report said the government could have significantly underestimated the cost of retrofitting 19 million of the UK’s 29 million domestic properties, which ministers currently suggest could cost between £35bn and £65bn as the country aims for net zero by 2050.
In its manifesto, the Conservatives promised to spend £3.8bn over 10 years on the SHDF, with £60m pledged for 2020/21, £240m in 2022/23 and £410m in 2023/24.
In the November spending review, Rishi Sunak confirmed £60m to retrofit social housing.
The EAC welcomed the overall fund, but said: “The government should bring forward the allocation of the £3.8bn of funding… this would deliver cost savings at scale. This funding should be frontloaded to reap the benefits of cumulative emissions savings towards net zero.”
Last September a £50m fund for demonstrator projects under the SHDF was announced.
Housing associations can apply for the initiative, but local authorities must lead any bid.
However in its evidence Stonewater told MPs said that it understood that less than half of the funding available in the SHDF demonstrator was applied for by the sector.
“[Stonewater] considered that this was because many local authorities did not have their own stock or did not have the resources to lead bids,” the report said.
As a result, the committee recommended: “The government should also allow housing associations to lead bids, so as to ensure that the available funding is used quickly and effectively.”
Elsewhere in the report, MPs recommended that the social rented sector should be subject to the same minimum energy performance standards as the private rented sector.
“Without these minimum standards, it is unlikely the government’s overall ambitions on retrofitting energy efficiency will be achieved,” the report said.
The committee also called on the government to work with the financial sector and major housing providers, including local authorities and other social landlords, to “stimulate renovation through the introduction of green mortgages, green finance and low-cost loans”.
And on the government’s Energy Company Obligation (ECO), which requires utility firms to install energy efficiency measures in homes, the committee said that the “inability to use ECO with other sources of funding is hampering the deeper retrofits that are needed in social housing”.
In response, a spokesperson from the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy said: “The UK has a strong track record in improving the energy performance of its homes, with 40 per cent now above Energy Performance Certificate band C, up from just nine per cent in 2008.
“However, we are committed to going further and faster, and are investing £9bn in improving the energy efficiency of our buildings, while creating hundreds of thousands of skilled green jobs.
“This includes funding for the first hydrogen-powered houses and allocating more than £500m this year alone to improve the energy efficiency of 50,000 households in social and local authority housing across the UK, as we work to eliminate our contribution to climate change by 2050.”