Key figures in the Welsh housing sector have said the newly elected government must provide certainty over grant funding if the sector is to meet its target of hitting net zero by 2030.
Inside Housing has spoken to senior individuals in the sector who said they were broadly pleased that housing has been included in the new climate change ministry within the Welsh government, but said more must be done if ministers are to meet their ambitious net zero goals.
“I think the fact that housing is at the centre of a ministry dedicated to tackling climate change is really, really positive with regards to one of the biggest challenges that the sector faces, which is decarbonisation,” said Rhea Stevens, head of policy and external affairs at Community Housing Cymru (CHC).
However, Ms Stevens said Welsh Labour’s manifesto was “fairly light on specifics” and that CHC will be hoping that the next programme for government includes “much more detail on how Labour will meet that manifesto commitment to continue to improve existing homes and to tackle the climate emergency”.
In 2019 the Welsh government accepted a recommendation from the Better Homes, Better Wales, Better World report that called for a 10-year programme that would see the social housing sector decarbonised by 2030. However, the sector awaits further details of such a programme.
In 2020, the government launched a £9.5m Optimised Retrofit Programme to fund the retrofit of up to 1,000 social homes in order to pilot different approaches to decarbonisation.
Clare Budden, chief executive at ClwydAlyn, said: “In terms of the climate change agenda, the Welsh government has set some really high ambitions and they’re looking at the social housing sector to lead the way and, of course, we are committed to it. We have an environmental strategy, we’re all committed to it, but the costs around retrofitting existing stock are really high.”
She added: “The factors in my own organisation mean without grant support from the government we cannot hit that target. In terms of what it’s going to cost us we’re looking at about £40m to retrofit our stock… We’re a traditional association so we’ve got a lot of very old properties, some properties haven’t got cavity walls, we’ve got properties in conservation areas, listed properties and some of the physical challenges and the costs of meeting the targets on those properties, which is to get them to [Energy Performance Certificate] C rating, is going to be tough.”
Research published by Inside Housing last year found social landlords across the UK expect it to cost an average of £20,742 per property to retrofit their stock to net zero standards, however this cost can very greatly depending on the type of stock landlords own.
Matt Dicks, director at the Chartered Institute of Housing Cymru, said decarbonisation is probably the top thing on Welsh housing associations’ agendas at the moment and that “more clarity on what funding is going to come forward” is needed.
“The sector needs that commitment to long-term funding and to understand the direction of travel on that because there’s going to be a lot of ask on the block grant, particularly health and social care,” he added.
Ian Thomas, chief executive at Trivallis, said the decision to include housing in a new climate change ministry was “absolutely on the money”.
“You’ve got to set a target somewhere, haven’t you? You’ve got to draw a line in the sand. It’s 2021 now so it’s nine years. I think putting a target for 2030 isn’t unrealistic. I think it will be very, very challenging, but what a target like that does is it focuses us on what we need to get done,” he said.
A Welsh Government spokesperson said: “The first minister has put the environment and climate change at the heart of the new Welsh government as we work to build a stronger, greener and fairer Wales.
“We are trialling the optimised retrofit approach, where the changes made are based on a whole house energy survey unique to that home. This scheme is essential to tackling climate change, and driving down household energy costs. This will help people, including those on lower incomes, to reduce their fuel bills while keeping their homes warm.”
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