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Housing offers huge jobs boost opportunity for the North

7th August 2020
READING TIME:

5 minutes

The Housing sector could create 20,000 jobs in the North post-Covid and play a major role in the economic recovery of Northern communities with the right backing from the government claims a new paper.

The paper, ‘Net Zero and New Homes: Housing’s Role in the North’s Recovery, was produced by the Northern Housing Consortium (NHC), a membership organisation representing more than 90% of all social housing providers in the North of England.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak gave some backing to the housing sector in his Summer Economic Update recently through the Green Homes Grant which subsidises energy-saving home improvements.

However, the Northern Housing Consortium are now campaigning for further support for the sector with decarbonisation of existing homes and the building of new homes the key focus of their ask – a tactic which they claim will create 20,000 jobs quickly and give a huge boost to Northern economies.

The document calls for the Government to use the forthcoming Autumn Spending Review to announce the early release of investment for the decarbonisation of homes in the social housing sector.  These funds – promised at last year’s General Election – would enable councils and housing associations to scale-up actions such as improving insulation and replacing boilers in existing houses.

Homes in the North are typically older and colder and decarbonisation would have a knock on effect of making fuel bills more affordable for more vulnerable residents and reduce poor health and the strain on the NHS.

It would also help the government achieve ambitious Net Zero targets.

NHC Chief Executive Tracy Harrison comments:

“The Chancellor’s recognition of the job-creating potential of home retrofit in his Summer Economic Update is very encouraging and we’d like him to push even further with this concept which would help people living in the North in so many ways.

“The Chancellor’s next step should be to bring forward the promised £3.8bn social housing decarbonisation fund – so that councils and housing associations can retrofit homes at scale and speed. This will maximise the job-creation potential of retrofit and contribute to Government ambitions on net zero and levelling-up.

“We are now embarking on a campaign to reach out to politicians and policy makers, highlighting the opportunities facing us so that we can make a better future for residents living in the North.”

Liz Haworth, Chief Executive of Halton Housing said:

“Housing associations can play a key role in the economic recovery of the North whilst taking a big step towards Net Zero. With a firm commitment to sustainability, and a strong culture for innovation at Halton Housing, we are already challenging the way energy efficiency in homes is evaluated in a pioneering and successful project with 3 leading universities.

That is why we are proud to back the call for more support for retrofit, as we believe it will bring significant benefits – not just to the economy, but also to standards of living, health and affordability for customers. The Government has made a good start but we believe we have an opportunity to achieve much more with the right level of support.”

Following on from the release of the paper, the Northern Housing Consortium have launched the ‘#OurNorth Net Zero’ campaign programme which will map out how NHC members can make decarbonisation a reality, improving millions of homes and lives across the North of England.

NHC’s Executive Director for Policy and Public Affairs, Brian Robson, adds:

“The housing sector has already stepped up during the Covid crisis to support communities and now we have a huge opportunity to play a key part in recovery, and make changes that will pay dividends for decades to come.

“Our members are in agreement about decarbonisation – it’s not about whether we do this, it’s how we do it, and our new #OurNorth Net Zero programme will help councils and housing associations in the North realise the opportunities we know exist.”

#OurNorth Net Zero is supported by programme partners Consortium Procurement, Halton Housing, Liverpool City Region Housing Associations, and Thirteen.

Key recommendations from the paper

Advancing towards net zero by investing in the North’s existing homes

A quarter of the North’s carbon emissions come from our existing homes. Retrofitting
these homes will be necessary to deliver on net zero, and in the social sector there is
a readily available delivery mechanism. Improving the North’s homes even at a
steady rate could create 20,000 jobs at pace, providing a direct and positive impact
on local supply chains. It will put money back in people’s pockets through energy bill
savings, and reduce pressure on the NHS.

  • To create this net zero stimulus, we have recommended that Government:
    Confirm their 2019 manifesto commitments to a Social Housing Decarbonisation Fund and Home Upgrade Grants
  • Bring forward the £3.8bn Social Housing Decarbonisation Fund with immediate effect, enabling councils and housing associations to invest at scale and pace

New homes to meet the needs of a levelled-up region

The North needs a housing offer to meet the needs of its current and future
population – around 50,000 new homes every year. Building new affordable homes,
and readying sites for future housing growth of all tenures will provide an immediate,
tried-and-tested boost to the Northern economy. It will contribute to
Government’s ambition to boost housing supply across the country.

  • To create this new home stimulus, we recommend that Government:
    Immediately open the £12bn Affordable Homes Programme announced at
    Budget 2020, with flexibilities on tenure and delivery
  • Bring forward the Single Housing Infrastructure Fund announced at Budget 2020, opening the whole fund to the whole country.

To see the paper in full or to find out more about the Northern Housing Consortium visit: www.northern-consortium.org.uk

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