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Housing Association boss suggests increasing rent to fund electrification of heat



The suggestion from Stonewater Housing that social housing tenants should pay higher rents to pay for “green heating” is a disgrace says the Gas Users Organisation, which speaks in the interests of the 24 million households who use gas for domestic heating.


At a fringe meeting at Conservative Party conference, Nicholas Harris, the CEO of Bristol based Stonewater Housing, suggested that his housing association would raise rents for tenants in social housing to pay for refits to properties to improve insulation, and to pay for expensive electric heating.


Mr Harris remarked that improving the thermal efficiency of social housing properties, and upgrading the heating systems might provide lower fuel bills for renters, but would provide no financial return for landlords, and therefore rents may need to be increased.


Andrew Newman, Technical Director of the Gas Users Organisation commented:


“It is outrageous that social housing tenants, who are often in more difficult financial circumstances, would be expected to suffer increased rents to pay for their current gas heating to be removed. Stonewater Housing have gone out of their way to champion a more expensive form of heating, and are now touting the idea that their tenants should pay the costs.


“There is currently a debate in government circles about the most effective route to reduce carbon emissions from domestic heating. Unfortunately, most of the general public are unaware that this debate is even taking place, even though it is likely to have a massive impact on their bills.


"There are two huge decisions to be made, and the general public needs to have its voice on them. Firstly, what technology should be adopted, and secondly, who pays?


“The best option for consumers, in terms of both cost and disruption, is to keep the gas grid network, and change the gas carried by it to low carbon alternatives, such as hydrogen.


“Stonewater Housing are at the forefront of an alternative strategy of seeking to move tenants from gas heating, which is clean, convenient and cheap, towards more expensive electric heating. Stonewater sponsored a report from the Institute of Public Policy Research (IPPR) called “All Hands to the Pump”, that recommended disconnecting all 24 million domestic households from the gas grid, and connecting 5 million of these properties to heat networks, and fitting 19 million households with a so called “heat pump”.


“IPPR themselves estimate that their plans would cost “approximately £10.6 billion per year from the public and private sectors through to 2030, reducing to £7 billion per year from 2030 to 2050”. This is an extraordinary £246 billion, but the Gas Users Organisation believes that this is a considerable underestimate of the overall costs, because it does not take into account the costs of expanding and reinforcing the electricity network to cope with the huge additional demand.


“Obviously, refitting homes to improve their heat efficiency through, for example, insulation and fitting double glazing, is a good thing, and the government has recently pledged £50 million to fund a trial refitting two thousand of the worst performing social housing properties.


"The report from IPPR showed that only 11% of people believe that the costs of low carbon heating should fall upon consumers, while more than 50% believe that decarbonisation of heating should be paid for by either general taxation, or government borrowing. The idea that social housing tenants should be especially penalised by higher rents goes against all standards of fairness and decency”

BACKGROUND NOTES


INCREASE RENTS


Remarks on increasing rents to pay for green heating were made by Nicholas Harris, CEO of Stonewater Housing, at a fringe meeting at Conservative Party Conference on 5th October, “Ratcheting Up Ambition on Decarbonising Our Homes” sponsored by Stonewater, and hosted by the Institute of Public Policy Research (IPPR). In addition to Mr Harris, the meetings was also addressed by Phillip Dunne MP, Chair of the Environmental Audit Select Committee, by Kate Henderson of the National Housing Federation, and by Jessica Levy of the Federation of Master Builders.


HEAT PUMPS AND HOUSING NETWORK


Stonewater Housing sponsored the report from Institute of Public Policy Research (IPPR) called “All Hands to the Pump”, that recommended disconnecting all 24 million domestic households from the gas grid, and connecting 5 million of these properties to heat networks, and fitting 19 million households with a so called “heat pump”.


https://www.ippr.org/research/publications/all-hands-to-the-pump

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