How can tenants, social housing providers, and others work together to tackle climate change in our homes and neighbourhoods?
With the challenge of tackling climate change in our homes and neighbourhoods, the Northern Housing Consortium (NHC) commissioned a Social Housing Tenant’s Climate Jury to address how tenants, social housing providers, and others can work together to provide solutions.
In partnership with five housing associations First Choice Homes Oldham, Karbon Homes, Salix Homes, Thirteen Group, and Yorkshire Housing, the Jury, made up of housing association residents, “joined together virtually to learn about and discuss climate change, the impact on [their] lives, [their] future, and the future of the planet”.
The Jury shared their views and recommendations on the important actions needed across housing associations to address climate change, improve their stock, and ensure residents are engaged throughout the process.
Importance of involvement
It is important to remember that retrofitting homes directly impacts those living in them. As housing associations, it is important when trialling new technologies, or retrofit work on properties, that considerations for the people living in them are made. It is the residents that will experience the impacts of any decisions and it is therefore essential that the right decisions are made now.
Creating a shared long-term vision of what the homes and surrounding communities should be is essential to influencing behavioural changes and supporting a transition to sustainability. A deeper trust in and better-quality decisions can be made with a diverse incorporation of opinions, values and needs.
Where to start?
Education is essential to not only further understanding the future impacts and the actions causing accelerated climate change, but also emphasising the urgency of actions needed to minimise our impacts. Residents may be unaware of their impacts and not know the options available to retrofit and decarbonise our homes. Providing platforms for education that brings climate change into their homes, making it relatable, and simply answering the question “how is it going to impact me?” is critical.
After a range of educational talks, group tasks and sharing the experiences of other residents with retrofitted homes, the tenants published a final statement with recommendations for housing associations and their decarbonisation, energy efficiency and retrofit strategies. The key points include:
- These programmes are as much a tenant engagement issue as an asset management issue. Residents must have continued support and communication throughout all planning, completed work, and follow up procedures. A particular focus should be providing information on the correct use of new systems and aftercare advice, with extra support directed at the elderly and vulnerable residents.
- An individual point of contact for residents should be appointed throughout the process to communicate progress, ensure people are being held accountable and mediate any issues.
- When work is complete, an independent inspection is conducted to sign off any work completed on properties. A suggestion of a tenant inspector, in combination with representatives from all parties, be incorporated to ensure highest standard of work and that the tenant voice is heard.
- Work should not only focus on the homes, but community development. Suggested projects included: guarantee adequate green spaces, establish community growing spaces, expand the use of community centres.
- Residents are concerned about costs (increase in bills, potential rent increases) and disruptions (damages, reallocated homes). A request for transparency from HAs on how they are paying for this work.
- Keep an open mind for new technologies and potential changing paths to decarbonisation.
If you would like help developing a sustainability strategy, please contact us.
 Photo Credit: Jay Mullings