Social Housing tenants come together to speak out on tackling climate change

Tenants from across the North of England have come together to publish new advice on tackling climate change in their homes and neighbourhoods.

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2 Nov 2021

The first of its kind, the Social Housing Tenants’ Climate Jury saw 30 social housing tenants from across the North of England come together to discuss how climate change impacts their lives. It makes recommendations on how tenants, social housing providers, and others could work together to tackle climate change in their homes and neighbourhoods.

The overarching theme of the Jury was to explore how to tackle, in homes and neighbourhoods, the incredibly challenging and complex issue of climate change. The jury's recommendations underline the sense of urgency felt by the group on the need for action. The tenants' work also offers suggestions as to how communication with tenants can be made more honest and transparent, how the social housing sector can be upfront on the costs of and potential disruption caused to tenants by retrofit, and the value placed on collaboration across the region.

The process saw 7500 social housing tenants invited to apply, of which 30 tenants came together, reflecting the diversity of the population of tenants from across housing associations in the North of England. The jury met over ten sets of three-hour sessions and worked hard, listening to each other and sharing experiences and opinions. To help them with their task, they received presentations from nineteen expert ‘commentators’, housing association representatives, and tenants sharing lived experiences.

Homes account for around one-quarter of the North’s carbon emissions. To meet the challenge of reaching net zero carbon emissions, over one million social rented sector homes across the North will require retrofit measures, and the sector is likely to be a retrofit early adopter.

The percentage of carbon emissions coming from homes is even higher in the North East at 27%, and retrofit works will be required to the vast majority of the region’s 284,000 council and housing association homes.

The Social Housing Tenants’ Climate Jury was commissioned by the Northern Housing Consortium in partnership with five housing associations: First Choice Homes Oldham, Karbon Homes, Salix Homes, Thirteen and Yorkshire Housing.

The jury's top ten most popular recommendations are summed up in one or two sentences*:

1.  There is a need to take into account the urgency of the issue of climate change, and installation programmes need to be quicker.

2.  Housing associations need to work with contractors to ensure work is completed to the highest standard. An independent person or body to be appointed as a point of contact for tenants, to provide oversight to work, to hold parties to account & mediate any issues.

3.  Because retrofit could be very disruptive, tenants need to have clear and timely information about timescales and cost.

4.  The best quality of technology should be used.

5.  Housing associations need to ensure good communication with tenants before, throughout and after any work carried out.

6.  Housing Associations should collaborate with each other and Local Authorities, and other agencies.

7.  Raise awareness with everyone in our communities about how we can tackle climate change through a range of communication channels. Communication must use clear, accessible language at all times.

8.  People in care homes, older and vulnerable people should be made aware of what is happening. Good, clear information should be provided in a format they can understand.

9.  Housing Associations should employ a local dedicated person to work with the community to open the community centres and develop the green spaces -ensuring that people are more informed about the spaces, having a more connected approach and access to the facilities.

10. The housing associations should be proactive in training and employing their own skilled workforce necessary to complete the work within timescales by 2050 and to allow for any repairs and replacements.

Many authorities, agencies, and organisations worldwide have started to recognise the importance of involving members of the public in helping make important and difficult climate decisions. Consisting entirely of tenants living in social housing in the North of England, the Jury places their voice at the heart of the collective challenge of tackling climate change.

Tracy Harrison, chief executive of Northern Housing Consortium, said: “We brought together a group of 30 tenants from across the North of England to put their voice right at the heart of the debate on one of the biggest issues we face as a society. It was a rigorous process designed to ensure fairness. Tackling climate change will require big changes to homes and neighbourhoods - through the Jury process, social housing tenants have given clear guidance on what they want to see happen in what are, after all, their homes and neighbourhoods.

“We are hugely grateful for the support of our partner housing associations, but most of all to the Jury of tenants who have created these substantial and important recommendations.”

Thirteen's head of environmental sustainability Samantha Granger added: “We’re proud to have given our customers the opportunity to be a part of the Social Housing Tenants’ Climate Jury. This has been a valuable opportunity to work together and gain essential insight from customers across the region.

“We all have a part to play in tackling climate change together and we’re committed to reducing our negative impact on the environment.

“This is about looking at what needs to be done to deliver sustainable homes which are fit for the future and that are right for our customers

“While retrofitting homes is a challenge and one which everyone is facing, by listening and understanding how customers feel and what matters to them, will help us to take action on their recommendations in collaboration with partners across the housing sector.”

The process was designed and facilitated by the social enterprise Shared Future. The report explains the process followed and, in their own words, the Jury’s conclusion responding to the Jury question in the form of a statement and a series of recommendations.

The Northern Housing Consortium, as a membership organisation representing the views and interests of housing organisations in the North of England, sought to bring together partner housing associations to place the voice of tenants at the heart of the collective challenge of tackling climate change.