The committee said that in 2015 the government scrapped housebuilding regulations that required new homes to be carbon-zero and around one million homes are believed to have been built in that time. However, Mr Hughes said he felt that the level of retrofitting would be “minimal” as the housing sector approaches the Future Homes Standard in 2025, which dictates that all homes built from 2025 onwards must emit 75 to 80 per cent less carbon than homes delivered under current regulations.
“We need to make sure we don’t have the unintended consequence of building far fewer homes because we’re meeting unnecessarily strict targets. I would say the homes that have been built are pretty efficient and the requirement for retrofitting will be insignificant,” Mr Hughes said.
Local authority landlords, like housing associations, are eligible to bid for a share of the current £160m phase of the government’s Social Housing Decarbonisation Fund, as part of an expected £3.8bn over 10 years first promised in the 2019 Conservative manifesto. In a speech at the Housing 2021 conference in Manchester earlier this month, housing minister Christopher Pincher appeared to confirm the full £3.8bn commitment.
However, the full cost for the UK’s social housing stock to reach net zero in 2050 is estimated to exceed £100bn.
Speaking at the conference, Eamon McGoldrick, managing director of the National Federation of ALMOs, warned: “[From] the council perspective, if you’ve got the enhanced Decent Homes Standard, you do all the building safety works, and you deal with zero carbon – the money just won’t fill it. So it may be that… some councils need some support at certain points on their 30-year business plans to make them work.”
Monday’s committee meeting also touched on energy and time-efficient modular housebuilding, with the current government proposals stating that through the Affordable Homes Programme new strategic partnerships will see 25 per cent of all new housing stock built by modern methods of construction (MMC).
Mr Hughes said: “Lots of people are investing significant amounts of money from the private sector, insurance companies and so on because I think everybody sees that this is going to be a significant contribution to our productivity in housing in the future and in terms of being able to make sure that we’ve got energy-efficient homes.”
The housing ministers confirmed that they are working with the Treasury to implement tasks for the MMC taskforce that would address “skills and capacity” in the sector.