A fast-paced mixed-method study exploring the attitudes and experiences of social housing landlords regarding improving the energy performance of their homes. The research focused on both current plans and future ambitions as well as exploring views on the government’s new Social Housing Decarbonisation Fund (SHDF). The study comprised 39 depth interviews and a multi-mode survey (telephone and online) with 449 landlords.
About the client
The Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS) is a ministerial department facilitating UK business growth, encouraging innovation and supporting the country tackle climate change.
Challenges and objectives
Social housing has the most energy efficient stock of all tenure types, with 61% of homes rated EPC Band A-C in comparison to 38% in the private rental sector and 36% in owner occupied. Nonetheless, it still constitutes around 23% of fuel poor households in England. This makes this sector a crucial piece of the puzzle in the government’s commitment to transitioning the UK to Net Zero Carbon emissions by 2050. However, with competing budgetary constraints, social housing landlords require additional support and drive to further improve energy performance in their homes.
The government has therefore launched the £3.8bn Social Housing Decarbonisation Fund (SHDF), which aims to encourage and enable social housing providers to meet their energy performance targets. This research was commissioned to support the launch, exploring providers’ attitudes to improved energy performance, barriers to implementing new measures, and views on the new fund. The study also explored what support BEIS could offer landlords who apply for funding, via a technical assistance facility (TAF), to access funding and develop energy performance improvement plans.
The research comprised two strands. Initial in-depth interviews with social housing providers explored their current decarbonisation plans, what their ambitions for the future are and how these plans are impacted by factors like mixed tenure blocks or resistance from tenants. It also explored landlords’ interest in the SHDF and what factors would impact their likelihood to apply (such as timescales and internal knowledge). The second strand, a multi-mode survey, looked to build on these initial findings, and quantify elements such as knowledge of housing stock (e.g. EPC ratings), which energy performance measures are implemented regularly and which barriers are most common.
The research revealed that landlords have implemented a range of measures but they also face several barriers to implementing plans. These typically relate to budget, lack of skills to apply for funding, lack of clarity on government policy, COVID-19, and identifying suitable contractors for the works.
Figure 1. Barriers to energy performance improvement plans experienced by providers (multiple responses allowed)
Source: SHDF Study – Survey. E8: “Since 2010, have you experienced any of the following barriers to your decarbonisation plans?” (multiple responses allowed). All providers (N=449).
Financial barriers were commonly regarded as the principal barrier in meeting energy performance targets in the future, and for smaller providers crucial to developing targets and plans to begin with. With this in mind, it was unsurprising that the SHDF was received positively, with four in five providers reporting they are likely to apply for funding.
In addition to the final, published report, IFF worked closely with the BEIS team to devise a set of recommendations aiming to inform future delivery of the SHDF. These covered areas such as communications around the fund, type and level of support provided through the TAF, and guidance for the application process and criteria.