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Decarbonising housing: what can community-led housing groups do?

29 November 2021

A new report released by the National Housing Federation offers useful guidance for groups.

Ahead of the recent COP26 summit, the National Housing Federation (NHF) published a new report to help housing associations decarbonise. In our experience, the community led housing (CLH) sector is already driving forward the net zero carbon agenda, as we explored at our recent climate café.  However, for those groups who haven’t yet grappled with these issues, the report offers some useful pointers.

Wrigleys works with many CLH groups who are pioneers in developing net zero carbon properties and sustainable living. CLH groups such as Lilac, Lancaster Co-Housing and Cannock Mill have all used innovative and cutting-edge measures to develop a low impact lifestyle and to meet the challenges posed by the climate emergency. Examples of this include Lilac using a low-carbon method of construction that significantly reduced CO2 emissions, Lancaster Co-Housing using south facing triple-glazed windows and doors to capture heat from the sun and Cannock Mill developing properties with living green roofs. You can find out more about each of these inspiring communities here:

For any CLH groups who are struggling to get to grips with the climate emergency and net zero demands, the NHF report could be useful. The report forms part of NHF’s vision of improving the housing market by creating safe, sustainable, green and high-quality affordable homes. In producing the report, the NHF worked with its members and decarbonisation experts to set out a road map for retrofitting existing house stock and the benefits of doing this, including an aim of ensuring that properties become more comfortable, more cost effective and above all, emit no carbon.

The report emphasises that to meet the targets discussed at COP26, we all need to radically reduce our carbon footprint. One way to do this is by rethinking the way our homes are heated and insulated and this can help contribute to meeting the UK government’s legally binding target of reducing UK carbon emissions to net zero by 2050. In England, homes produce more carbon emissions every year than all our cars, with 22% of carbon reductions predicted to come from home energy efficiency measures. There are currently 2.7 million housing association properties, which according to the report are already on average more energy efficient than other homes.

Heat pumps have received much media coverage recently as a potential low-carbon domestic heating solution. However, the report makes clear that as heat pumps rely on electricity, they will work most efficiently in well-insulated homes. UK properties are notoriously badly insulated and draughty so solutions requiring electricity (and therefore good insulation) are often unsuitable for residents in fuel poverty. The NHF therefore advocates a ‘fabric first’ approach, focusing on first improving insulation in homes, before switching from fossil fuel-based energy provision to heat pumps. The second aspect of this strategy is to lobby government to reduce electricity prices, in particular by ending electricity bill levies (the report suggests that 25% of an electricity bill is made up of levies, compared to 2% of a gas bill). Finally, the report advocates implementing district heating networks, powered by biomass, which are common in the rest of Europe and would reduce reliance on a central electricity grid.

Putting control over housing design into the hands of the community creates a valuable opportunity to ensure new homes are built according to net zero carbon standards. Some groups are already doing this, offering models for others to learn from. However, this report from the NHF should be welcomed as offering some practical advice for groups looking to get started. 

Wrigleys offers a free initial 20 minute telephone call to community-led housing groups. Please do get in touch with our community-led housing team to arrange this.

If you would like to discuss any aspect of this article further, please contact Laura Moss , Dan Lewis or any other member of the community-led housing team on 0113 244 6100.

You can also keep up to date by following Wrigleys charities team on Twitter here and sign up to receive our dedicated community-led housing newsletter here.

The information in this article is necessarily of a general nature.  The law stated is correct at the date (stated above) this article was first posted to our website. Specific advice should be sought for specific situations. If you have any queries or need any legal advice please feel free to contact Wrigleys Solicitors

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Laura Moss


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Daniel Lewis


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