Tracy Harrison explains why the Northern Housing Consortium is setting up a jury made up of tenants to decide how social housing in the North of England is readied for zero carbon
I’m passionate about upgrading the North’s existing homes. A programme of green home upgrades across the North is necessary because around a quarter of the regions’ carbon emissions come from our existing homes.
We know that around one million social homes across the North will require upgrading, and that a programme like this can deliver huge additional benefits – creating 77,000 jobs across the North, cutting fuel bills, and making homes healthier and more comfortable.
“Readying the North’s homes for net zero will mean removing gas boilers that, frankly, many residents know and like. It might mean taking up floorboards and replacing pipes and radiators”
At that macro level, it seems a no-brainer. But it must not be forgotten that every single one of these one million properties is someone’s home.
Readying the North’s homes for net zero will mean removing gas boilers that, frankly, many residents know and like. It might mean taking up floorboards and replacing pipes and radiators. It’ll certainly mean tackling leaky homes by topping up insulation.
All this means disruption – and the end benefit to the occupier is perhaps less immediate, and less tangible, than when new kitchens and bathrooms were installed through the Decent Homes Programme.
So it’s vital that councils, housing associations and ALMOs put tenants’ voices at the heart of the transition to net zero.
Building on good work already done by PlaceShapers and Tpas, we must develop a clear understanding of what tenants want to see done to tackle climate change, and design programmes that are informed by their interests and perspectives. Underpinning all of this must be a clear understanding of what tenants see as the benefits – and, yes, the challenges – of such a programme.
That’s why the Northern Housing Consortium, supported by five of our members, is establishing England’s first social housing tenants’ climate jury.
“More than 5,000 tenants across the North will be invited to take part in the jury process”
Citizens’ assemblies and juries have been used from Leeds to Los Angeles, and all points in between, to explore complex or contentious issues, and get recommendations from a representative group of citizens. We think applying this innovative ‘deliberative democracy’ approach to social housing for the first time will enable us to put tenants’ voices at the heart of the transition to net zero.
Later this month, more than 5,000 tenants across the North will be invited to take part in the jury process. From those who express an interest, 30 tenants will be independently selected to form a jury that is broadly representative of the profile of tenants across the North.
That jury will meet for 30 hours of deliberation over the summer, taking evidence from and questioning independent commentators and experts, before discussing recommendations, voting on them and presenting them to the sector in the autumn.
To ensure legitimacy and independence, the process will be facilitated by Shared Future, the UK’s leading experts in direct democracy, and overseen by an independent oversight panel.
It’s exciting and innovative. We think it’s the sort of initiative the government had in mind when it said in the Social Housing White Paper that it wanted to see landlords “continually improve the way they engage with social housing tenants”.
“We can be as passionate as we like about climate change, but we need to put tenants right at the heart of the transition to net zero if we are to truly succeed”
I’m hugely grateful to First Choice Homes Oldham, Karbon Homes, Salix Homes, Thirteen and Yorkshire Housing for supporting the jury, and to the independent experts – from individuals and organisations including Lord Best, the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, Tpas and National Energy Action – who have agreed to join the oversight panel.
We hope the whole sector will follow our progress over the summer and will listen and respond to the recommendations that emerge this autumn. We can be as passionate as we like about climate change, but we need to put tenants right at the heart of the transition to net zero if we are to truly succeed.
Tracy Harrison, chief executive, Northern Housing Consortium
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