Is social housing better insulated than other tenures?

Tags: news

September 06, 2016

When we speak about the housing crisis we hear a lot about affordability. In fact, one could say that the housing crisis is predominantly a crisis of affordability. And while house prices and rent levels are undoubtedly the key determinants in the ongoing crisis, we shouldn’t lose sight of the quality of our existing homes.

Our recent research shows there are several factors that contribute to a good quality home, including its state of repair, the quality of the neighbourhood and also how accessible it is. However, one key factor that makes a good quality home is the level of thermal comfort.

The positive impacts of a well-insulated and energy efficient home on health and well-being are well documented, but a good quality home is also a more affordable home. So, how energy efficient are housing association homes? And what does this mean for residents?

In our study we found that despite energy efficiency improvements over the last decade across the English housing stock, there are still significant differences between the tenures. Broadly speaking, social housing residents live in more energy efficient homes than households in private tenures, with housing association homes being the most efficient. Forty-five per cent of housing association stock is of very good or good energy efficiency (EPC bands A-C), which is almost double the proportion in the English housing stock (23%), and another 45% of housing association homes are of medium energy efficiency (EPC D).

Energy efficiency rating (EPC bands) by tenure

Source: English Housing Survey 2013/14

This leaves 10% of housing association stock which is classified as energy inefficient (EPC bands E-G), and although this is a lower proportion than in other tenures, it means there is still much room for improvement.

Crucially, households living in an energy inefficient home spend a lot more on energy. In fact, a typical household in an energy inefficient home spends double (£1,800) the amount on energy compared to a household in an efficient home (£900).

Average annual energy costs by EPC bands

Source: English Housing Survey Fuel Poverty Dataset 2012

EPC ratingAnnual energy cost

Cleary, high energy costs impact particularly on households on lower incomes. Given the large gap in average annual household incomes between social tenants (£14,000) on the one hand and private renters (£23,000) and homeowners (£33,000) on the other hand, energy efficiency remains of high importance to social renters. And while the consistent high quality of homes that housing associations provide prevents thousands of households from falling into fuel poverty, there are still many social tenants who are struggling with fuel bills.

As a result, many are faced with difficult decisions during colder periods and many are under-heating their homes. In fact, almost a quarter (23%) state that they are unable to keep their living room warm, nearly double the national average (12%). Social renters also have a different socio-demographic profile, with a higher proportion of older and disabled residents, who suffer more from the consequences of fuel poverty.

Housing associations are committed to tackling fuel poverty and, through Energiesprong and the Every Home Matters review, are exploring new models of delivery that drive innovation, efficiency and collaboration. But, as the figures above show, there remains a vital need to address poor energy efficiency in all sectors, to ensure that homes are affordable and liveable as household budgets continue to be squeezed.

Gerald Koessl, research officer, National Housing Federation

Article taken from Inside Housing 22nd August 2016