Housing Alliance launches report on decarbonising social housing

September 21, 2023

‘Providing environmental leadership in social housing to advance Climate Action goals’ was launched earlier this week

Co-operative Housing Ireland (CHI) welcomes the findings and recommendations from the Housing Alliance report, ‘Providing environmental leadership in social housing to advance Climate Action goals’. This important research outlines the contribution Approved Housing Bodies (AHBs) can make to decarbonise the sector in order to reach the government’s 2050 net zero targets. The Residential sector currently accounts for 10.2% of national carbon emissions. Housing Alliance members, the six largest AHBs in Ireland, own and manage over 30,000 properties and are, therefore, strategic partners for the government and other stakeholders to champion, finance and support in the decarbonisation process. AHBs can create economies of scale.

“CHI has already committed to retrofitting housing stock with the aims of improving member tenant comfort and wellbeing, tackling fuel poverty, protecting and futureproofing housing stock, and reaching national decarbonisation goals.”, CHI Director of Asset Management and Property Services, David McCourt explains.

McCourt continues, “CHI’s ‘Improving Warmth and Wellbeing’ deep energy upgrade programme, which will see the retrofit of 216 poor energy performing homes, is currently halfway completed. The success of this retrofit programme has been recognised by stakeholders and the organisation has won three awards for its execution and impact.”

The goals of CHI’s ambitious retrofitting programme align with the top two climate related issues identified by AHBs collectively and as outlined in the report: energy management and fuel poverty.

However, the success of decarbonising the sector and scaling up current retrofit and decarbonisation projects is contingent on increased retrofit finance from government and stakeholders, and a collaborative approach from AHBs including agreeing ambitious common targets. It is becoming increasingly clear, as outlined in the report, that executing and financing retrofits of older properties is as important as the delivery of new nearly zero energy building (NZEb) homes to reach  net zero targets.

David McCourt outlines the shift in thinking, “To date, most of the emphasis in the construction sector has been in the delivery of new, high efficiency and NZEB (nearly zero energy building) homes and not on retrofit. The capacity of the sector to scale up to meet the demand and these targets will be critical.”

AHBs are now experiencing a situation whereby income from newer properties is paying for the energy upgrades of older ones where differential rent paid may be lower due to an aging population. Other challenges include a shortage of materials and skills in the area of deep energy upgrades.

These are issues that are experienced by other AHBs and highlight the need for financial support for this sector to reach ambitious targets and to ensure the wellbeing of tenants.

Recommendations from the report to initiate the process of a collaborative and large-scale approach include the establishment of a Climate Action working group and reaching a consensus on decarbonisation targets across the six AHBs in Housing Alliance membership.

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