Action needed to shield the most vulnerable tenants from the harm of fuel poverty

Social landlords are at the coal face of the cost-of-living crisis and had already seen increasing numbers of tenants being pushed into absolute poverty, even before the energy price rise.

Fuel poverty is a very real part of this wider picture of inequality. Housing associations are crucially placed to act due to the intersecting factors of properties’ energy efficiency, household income and energy prices. Figures from 2019  showed that more than one in ten households or 3.18 million were in fuel poverty. The predictions for this year highlight an imminent public health emergency on top of the pandemic.

We know that fuel poverty is directly linked to deteriorating mental and physical health. It can cause respiratory issues, heart diseases, circulatory problems and more. For those people who are already clinically vulnerable, fuel poverty is potentially fatal.

Retrofitting works to improve the energy efficiency and quality of homes help to alleviate fuel poverty and must be part of the solution. Many landlords are making great progress but know there is more to do, and the pressure is now heightened.

As the NetZero Collective, we are helping housing associations and local authorities to better understand which technologies and energy efficient measures will help them to achieve their low carbon targets and importantly, to create warmer homes at a more affordable cost for their tenants. This is especially important for those tenants who are at higher risk.

It is vital that social landlords prevent harm and protect vulnerable communities from the impact of energy price rises. When planning retrofitting works, we are urging landlords to move away from prioritising their decarbonisation programmes just based on EPC ratings and street order, to prioritising households based on risk.

This is how we are working with many of our partners, analysing EPC data alongside tenant data so that homes which are most in need are prioritised for retrofit works.

It is possible to reduce a tenant’s fuel bills by £600 a year by completing a whole-house decarbonisation refit. This is according to our research and post-retrofit monitoring which is backed by Southampton University.

Savings like these could have a hugely positive impact for people struggling to make ends meet.

Our team is currently on-site with Crawley Borough Council delivering its first whole-house retrofit programme, whilst also supporting them to assess more of their homes for future decarbonisation retrofits ahead of the SHDF 2 funding application deadlines.

The homes have been selected by Crawley Borough Council based on their data and assessment of fuel poverty and vulnerability, and the retrofit works will be planned and delivered by Liberty in priority order.

As a sector, we cannot delay in taking action. In his Spring Statement, the Chancellor of the Exchequer announced a zero per cent VAT rate on energy saving retrofit products for the next five years. This offers landlords an excellent opportunity to take advantage of these savings, and to kick-start their decarbonisation retrofit schemes to help their tenants.

We must act now to protect people from the impact of fuel poverty and to protect our planet from the harm of climate change.

Annual Fuel Poverty Statistics LILEE Report 2021-2019 Data

Read more on the Unlock Net Zero website here.