Housing

Insulating social homes could slash household heating bills by over £550

If leaky homes were insulated and draught-proofed social housing tenants would spend £700m less on heating bills, housing experts found

Heating bills for social housing tenants could be slashed by £700m if their homes were retrofitted, a study has found. Image: Retrofit_Assessor from Pixabay

Insulating leaky homes could slash social housing tenants’ heating bills by almost half, experts have told the government.

England’s homes are among the oldest and least efficient in Europe, the National Housing Federation (NHF) said, and draught-proofing and insulating homes below an Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) C rating could save residents £700million overall.

The typical family in an energy inefficient social home spends £1,343 a year on heating bills alone based on the government’s energy price guarantee. But retrofitting their home could see their bills reduced by 42 per cent to £776 – a saving of £567 per year.

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Addressing the COP27 environmental conference in Sharm-el-Sheikh, prime minister Rishi Sunak said this week: “Climate security goes hand in hand with energy security.”

Kate Henderson, chief executive of the National Housing Federation, said insulating housing is as vital to the UK’s long-term climate fight as it is to protecting low-income households from escalating energy bills in the shorter term.

“Not only are poorly insulated homes one of the country’s biggest environmental polluters, they have now become a major culprit of the cost of living crisis,” said Henderson.

She said some social tenants will lose two months’ pay to energy costs once the government price cap freeze ends, adding: “Decarbonising social homes is a win-win solution, and the faster it can be done, the greater the benefits for residents and the environment.”

Social housing tenants are still waiting to hear whether rent rises will be capped at 3, 5 or 7 per cent from April 2023 when the freeze ends.

NHF’s report found some tenants are already disproportionately affected by rising energy bills with residents in leaky homes facing the most financial pain.

Social housing residents pay on average 5.7 per cent of their income on heating bills compared to the national average of 3.4 per cent, the housing association representatives found.

But for tenants living in the least energy efficient homes – an EPC G rating – it rises to 15.5 per cent of their income. That’s equivalent to two months of income each year on average.

In total, there are 1.2 million energy inefficient social homes across England which still require insulating. Housing associations are currently planning to spend £70bn on retrofitting social homes in the coming decades but NHF said an extra £36bn is needed to cover all homes and reach the government’s 2050 net zero target.

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Henderson called for the government to deliver long-term funding to speed up retrofitting.

She added: “Councils and housing associations have already started retrofitting their homes and the recent announcement of the next wave of the Social Housing Decarbonisation Fund is certainly welcome, but they need the long-term funding in place so they can ramp up the scale and speed of these programmes.”

The 2019 Conservative manifesto promised £3.8bn by 2030 to decarbonise social housing and the NHF said £1bn has been committed so far.

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A spokesperson for the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy said: “Thanks to government support, the number of homes with an energy efficiency rating of C or above is at 46 per cent and rising, up from just 13 per cent in 2010.

“We are investing over £6.6bn to decarbonise homes and buildings, including Help to Heat schemes such as the Social Housing Decarbonisation Fund, and are committed to ensuring all homes meet EPC band C by 2035 where cost-effective, practical and affordable.”

Meanwhile, the state of social housing was in the spotlight once again on Monday when the government’s Social Housing Regulation Bill received its second reading in the House of Commons after passing through the House of Lords.

That represented the first chance MPs had to debate the bill, which aims to improve the standard and regulation of social housing.

Housing secretary Michael Gove said during the debate: “Some 13 per cent of homes in the social rented sector do not meet the decent homes standard, and that is simply too high a figure. We need to make sure action is taken to deal with that.”

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