Government sets out £3.9bn of measures including an £800m social housing decarbonisation fund

The housing sector has called on the government to show more ambition in response to ministerial announcements this morning ahead of the publication of the Heat and Buildings Strategy later today.

The government announced a £3.9bn funding package for decarbonising buildings over the next four years.

This included £5,000 grants for homeowners to install heat pumps through a £450m boiler upgrade scheme, an £800m Social Housing Decarbonisation Fund to help social landlords improve the energy efficiency of their homes and a £950m Home Upgrade Grant scheme, which will be used by councils to support low-income households in carrying out energy efficiency retrofits.

The government said the plan will “significantly reduce the UK’s dependency on fossil fuels.”

However, several house builders and housing sector figures said much more ambition and investment is needed to make a real impact.

Dave Sheridan, executive chair at modular housebuilder Ilke Homes said the strategy “must be more ambitious”.

“To avoid huge retrofitting costs, policymakers must prioritise the delivery of zero-carbon new homes now by bringing forward the requirement to reach the Future Homes Standard ahead of 2025”, he said.

“Homes England, the Government’s forward-thinking housing agency, could also be reserving public land exclusively for housing that meets this standard to spur investment into the technologies that could create a green industrial revolution in housebuilding.”

Dean Clifford, co-founder of developer Great Marlborough Estates, said the government has “missed opportunities” by focusing on existing buildings.

Clifford said: “With recent developments crucial for making up the shortfall on the Government’s annual housing targets, we need to ensure that the highest decarbonisation standards are enshrined for all buildings, which means incentivising developers to build greener, cleaner houses.”

Geeta Nanda, chair of the G15 of large London housing associations and chief executive of Metropolitan Thames Valley, welcomed the £800m Social Housing Decarbonisation Fund and the fact associations can bid directly for funds.

She added however: “Meeting the total cost of achieving net zero is going to take much larger commitments right across public, private, and government institutions, alongside clearer guidance, but this is an important step forward.”

Other developers felt that the measures should focus more on embodied carbon in new housing.

Andrew Shepherd, managing director of modular builder Top Hat, said: “If the Government is serious in its ambition to cut embodied carbon in new housing - as it seems it is in the new heating and buildings strategy - we need to address the elephant in the room: timber.

“Around 50 percent of the whole-life emissions of a home come from the carbon emitted during construction. “By predominantly using timber to form a home’s structure, levels of embodied carbon can be drastically reduced, but planning policy, especially in London, must be more open-minded”

Meanwhile Russell Pedley, co-founder and director of Assael Architecture, questioned the apparent sole focus on home ownership.

Pedley said: “With much emphasis placed on incentivising households to install heat pumps, it is unclear what this means for private renters, who make up nearly a fifth of the country’s household occupiers.”