Policy to improve 50,000 homes branded ’simply not enough’ to tackle problem

Government plans to spend more than £500m on a green upgrade of 50,000 social homes have been described as “simply not enough” by architects, a day after MPs branded the government’s previous retrofit scheme “disastrous”.

Business secretary Kwasi Kwarteng and housing minster Chris Pincher yesterday said the government will allocate £562m to 200 separate local authorities to spend on improving some of the UK’s least energy-efficient homes.

Men installing solar panels on roof

Source: shutterstock.com

The scheme will see measures such as cavity wall, underfloor and loft insulation introduced, and the replacing of gas boilers with low-carbon alternatives such as heat pumps. Solar panels will also offered to many residents.

The funding comes after the government spent £50m on a pilot project to improve the energy efficiency of social housing stock last year.

However, it also follows the “botched” implementation of the £2bn Green Homes Grant scheme which was designed to improve the energy efficiency of privately-owned homes. Yesterday, the environmental audit committee branded it “disastrous”.

In its 80-page report, the committee highlighted the damage the scheme had done to the construction sector.

It said: “The impact of its botched implementation has had devastating consequences on many of the builders and installers that can do the work, who have been left in limbo as a result of the orders cancelled and time taken to approve applications.”

It added the scheme was “rushed in conception and poorly implemented … [the] scheme administration appears nothing short of disastrous”.

MPs said the government urgently needed to develop a full national retrofit programme to upgrade 19 million UK homes, or risk failing to meet legally binding carbon reduction targets.

The funding announced yesterday will see improvements made to just 50,000 homes, which the government says will create 8,000 jobs.

Alan Jones, president of the Riba, said he was pleased to see the government prioritising the improvements to homes of lower income people. However, he said the policy “seriously underplays the scale of the problem” and the funding was “simply not enough”.

He added: “We need an adequately funded national retrofit strategy. The government must go further and faster to save our shameful housing stock.”

Launching the policy, Pincher said the investment would cut 70,000 tonnes of carbon emissions each year. The housing minister added: “The investment being announced today along with our Future Homes Standard will help ensure that existing and newly-built homes will be fit for the future, better for the environment and affordable for households to heat using low carbon energy.”

Grants made under the scheme include £19.4m for Kensington & Chelsea council, which it plans to spend upgrading 535 homes on the Lancaster West estate, the site of the Grenfell Tower tragedy.

The scheme will see £500m spent under the local authority component of the Green Homes Grant scheme. A further £62m will come from a specific fund – the Social Housing Decarbonisation Fund Demonstrator – to be used to explore innovative ways to deliver “deep retrofits” for social housing.