26 April 2023

We all know that the social housing sector faces a considerable challenge to improve its energy efficiency and decarbonise, with around 1.4m social homes nationwide in need of retrofit. This extensive programme of retrofitting would also help tackle the fact that, across the whole social housing sector in England, 56.8% of customers living in properties that are EPC Bands D-G are facing fuel poverty.

Sanctuary has over 116,000 homes across England and Scotland and we know that we will need to do a significant level of retrofit to hit our target of EPC C across our homes by 2030. While there will be challenges in the scale of this work, there are also considerable opportunities bound up in social housing decarbonisation and retrofit work, both for us and for the wider housing sector.

At Sanctuary we see housing associations as an anchor point for driving demand across the whole country in terms of residential retrofit, a responsibility that we take seriously. As a sector we possess significant technical expertise and capacity, we understand the scale of the challenge, and we can move collectively to respond to it. By mobilising our supply chains to undertake work vital for our customers, we are also driving the development of highly necessary skills and increasing the wider demand of retrofit across the whole residential retrofit market. Given Sanctuary’s size, we have the ability to procure at scale, shaping how the supply chain itself develops. That is something that can be replicated across the social housing sector. The impact of these positive developments will eventually ripple out across the private rented and owner-occupied sectors, but grant funding programmes like the Social Housing Decarbonisation Fund (SHDF) are key to speeding up this process of growth.

Sanctuary was awarded £2.4m of grant funding under Wave 1 of the SHDF to participate in three Wave 1 consortiums, in Chester West and Cheshire, Essex, and Shropshire, retrofitting over 340 homes within the bid. Under Wave 1, we have taken a fabric first approach, focusing on insulation measures above all. We take this approach due to our overarching focus on the wellbeing and quality of life of our customers, with our works designed to deliver warmer homes that are less expensive, relatively, to run. The second strand of this is an unrelenting focus on our customers’ experience of retrofit works and we work very closely with our contractors to ensure that they take the same approach, with high quality customer engagement and communication throughout every stage of the retrofit process.

Even before Wave 1 of the SHDF got underway, Sanctuary had a well-developed retrofit plan to get all of our homes to EPC C by 2030, but the scale of the grant enables us to move more quickly and focus more intensely in specific geographies. Success with, and learning from, the Wave 1 bids has further enabled us to speed that process up. As Wave 1 draws to a close we have plenty of knowledge and experience to take into our preparations for Wave 2.1.

In Wave 2.1, Government is taking a new approach, with housing associations able to receive grants directly. This means we have also changed our approach, lessening the significant burden on local authorities that was required in Wave 1 and enabling us to use our existing consortium, the Greener Futures Partnership (GFP), to deliver at significant scale across England.

The Greener Futures Partnership has existed since 2021 and was created before any SHDF bids, comprising Abri, Anchor, Home Group, Hyde, and Sanctuary. We work well together and have similar aims on retrofit and sustainability, with a fully formed collaboration agreement and governance structure that made the SHDF bid writing process (almost) pain-free, drawing on a greater pool of knowledge and expertise from all five members of our consortium.

Sanctuary is acting as lead bidder for this GFP bid, with our component of the bid numbering over 2,000 homes, which marks a significant step up in scale from Wave 1. By submitting a consortium bid we have become more ambitious, and have all likely submitted more significant retrofit numbers than we otherwise might have had we bid separately. By working in a consortium we can also send confident signals across the sector and the supply chain, not just as part of our SHDF bid, but with our research, our knowledge-sharing and our partnership works, that we are in this for the long haul.

Rebecca Craig

Director of Sustainability and Climate Change, Sanctuary

The Social Housing Decarbonisation Fund: where are we now?