23 Jun 2022

Greener, safer homes for all (Guest blog from Civica)

Guest blog by Michelle Tyler, Managing Director, Housing at Civica

The right to have access to and live safely in an affordable home should be a given in society today. But there are concerns in some quarters that the government’s recent Rent to Buy extension, announced in recent weeks by Prime Minister Boris Johnson, could deplete the social housing stock available, making this less achievable for many.

We recently carried out extensive research with social housing residents and housing leaders across the UK, aiming to understand and explore the big issues affecting the sector now. What we’ve presented in our new report, Greener homes, connected communities, is that building more affordable homes is the number one priority for housing bodies, with an added imperative to meet net zero targets through more sustainable building practices and greener homes.

A mixed, complex picture

Our survey and discussions found a large range of wishes and challenges for residents and leaders. As we pass the fifth anniversary of the Grenfell Tower tragedy, it’s clear that the sector is placing greater emphasis than ever on the resident voice, encouraging people to develop a sense of ownership and contribute to the future of their housing organisation. We only have to look at the increased volume of complaints to the Housing Ombudsman and legal disrepair claims, backed up by our resident survey which showed the that the vast majority were comfortable sharing home truths.

Access to joined-up data and analytics platforms will prove crucial in improving the picture here – helping housing providers see the bigger picture of residents and homes to provide the best services possible.

Can housing get to net zero?

Talking to housing leaders, it’s clear that meeting net zero targets is a huge priority. Around 14% of UK carbon emissions are caused by energy use in home and the Climate Change Committee has recommended all social housing should meet Energy Performance Certificates (EPC) C by 2028 rather than 2030 be brought forward to 2028.

So can we meet this goal? We uncovered a big difference in confidence in doing so, with residents (44% for the UK as a whole) and housing leaders (90% for the UK as a whole and 94% for their individual organisation). Perhaps this latter confidence comes from inside knowledge of the detailed and wide-spread work already underway to make the UK’s social housing stock greener.

One of the main barriers is understanding what must be done. Over and above meeting energy efficiency targets – it will require careful forecasting and budgeting. While it’s tempting to imagine what we could build in future, a detailed look at current stock with up-to-date asset databases will be invaluable.

Include everyone

It’s also crucial to bring everyone along on the journey. Housing leaders confirmed that employee behaviour was the biggest barrier to becoming carbon neutral, more so than costs or system issues. So educating employees further on the challenges and benefits will be a key driver of future change.

Crucially, residents must be at the heart of this journey. Our survey suggested they are ready and willing to help. When asked about who should take financial responsibility for sustainability, they are happy to share some of the costs in areas such as energy efficient appliances and outdoor green spaces. They are also fully behind greener technologies such as smart thermostats and energy monitors and would like to see them used more widely.

The overall outlook is positive: social housing residents and leaders want the same thing: cheaper, safer and greener homes which are available now and scaled up to meet tomorrow’s demand. By continuing to listen to the resident voice, and enhanced by new technologies, the sector can move forward and provide the safer, greener homes so in demand.

Michelle Tyler is Managing Director, Housing at Civica

About Civica Group
Civica is the UK’s largest software company focused on the public sector. With over 30 years of proven expertise, we hold an undisputed leadership position in our markets around the world.



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