Look out for our member perceptions survey

The NHC are embarking on a new perceptions survey to help us understand what we’re doing well, where we need to improve, and where we should focus our attention for the future.

As a membership organisation, it is vital that the work NHC does is relevant and adds value to our members. As we now start slowly emerging from the shadow of the pandemic, we are looking to the future and the challenges and opportunities that face our sector in the coming years.

Our member’s views are hugely important in shaping how we respond to those challenges and opportunities. The results from this survey will help us in shaping the direction of our new corporate plan and we will be feeding back results and next steps when the research is complete.

The work has been commissioned from an independent communications and research company called Quorus. A contact at every NHC full member organisation will receive an invitation from Quorus to take part – if you receive the invitation for your organisation, please do complete the short survey and help shape our future work.

The Power of Action Learning and the Net Zero Agenda

Training and development opportunities for senior leaders  

Kate Maughan, Director of Member Engagement, NHC 

In 2020, the NHC ran its first Action Learning Set for members, facilitated by Action Learning Associates. While Action Learning is a great tool for any topic, we designed the sets around decarbonisation – the net zero agenda is a priority for our members, and when thinking about new skills, new technologies and a whole new direction, it can feel like a step into the unknown, so we felt this was a great first theme to tackle. 

What is Action Learning? 

Action Leaning is a process, rooted in listening and question making, that drives effective decision making and supports set members to take new action. It provides a safe place for learning, thinking, planning and decision making and in this case brought together five senior leaders from across the NHC membership. Each set is guided by a facilitator who keeps set members to the discipline of asking questions to probe and explore in depth, rather than moving into the familiar responses of discussion, advocacy or offering your own solutions or opinions. Set members learn from each other’s experience, offer each other honest feedback and build a network of trusted peers who together explore the big questions in the work. 

Sets are deliberately kept small to maximise the value members get from taking part, and meet four times over five to six months. 

Action Learning can form a fundamental part of your training and development programme for senior staff, and offers something much more tailored than many standard training and leadership programmes. 

What were the key issues raised on decarbonisation? 

At each set meeting every member shared a challenge they would like to work on (called a ‘bid’) and the set as a whole decided which two bids would take priority, based on how the individual communicated urgency, importance or how they were currently feeling about the issue. Some of the bids from our set included: 

  • Business planning and budgeting around decarbonisation – what should be built in? 
  • Developing a zero-carbon strategy and action plan 
  • Where do I start? And how do I get buy-in across the organisation, so decarbonisation doesn’t feel like just one person’s job? 
  • How do we begin to engage customers in this agenda and, ultimately, offer them a viable proposition? 

There was a lot of common ground here, with a number of set members looking to change their thinking and solve problems on the same or similar issues. 

Members explored these issues in depth throughout the process, and alongside the sharing of ideas, they also shared policies, strategies and other practical tools, while developing a new way of thinking about their challenges. 

How worthwhile was the process? 

We asked members to evaluate the Action Learning Set; all of them felt more confident about how they would approach their decarbonisation work going forward as a result of the process, and, crucially, felt that they had a better understanding of decarbonisation at the end of the four sessions. Members told us at the start that they wanted to: 

  • Develop a network of senior leaders working in the same field; 
  • Share information and learning with and from each other around decarbonisation; 
  • Experience Action Learning and strengthen the transferable skills of listening, question-making and feedback. 

During evaluation, all members felt they had achieved their expectations in these areas, and despite joining the sets with these skills already in place, came away with much improved confidence about their ability to listen and ask questions. 

What were the top takeaways for set members? 

Here are some member quotes: 

  • “New contacts, the Action Learning approach (love it!), giving myself the time to do the sessions.” 
  • “New working relationships, fresh ideas, a refocussed approach.” 
  • “Everyone is in the same position, there is support out there, be honest and open as you get more out of things.” 

A knowledgeable and sustainable network 

This set want to stay connected, and agreed to arrange a future meeting that they would self-facilitate. Members told us they highly valued the network they had created through Action Learning and found it a ‘safe place’ to bring up challenges and find reassurance. One member commented: 

“It’s been good to make time to do this; it feels like a luxury and I have thoroughly enjoyed every session.” 

What’s next, and how can you get involved? 

Following the success of the first set, here at the NHC we are very keen to continue to work with Action Learning Associates to build more Action Learning Sets to grow members’ confidence and networks – we’ll be launching new sets later this year, but would welcome your feedback on other themes you would find useful (some suggestions already have included the Social Housing White Paperpeople management and development, and communicating with customers). 

Sets can be run like this one, bringing together different people from across our Northern membership, or can be run in-house as part of your training and development programme for wider staff groups. 

If you’d like to get involved, please do get in touch with me at kate.maughan@northern-consortium.org.uk and look out for more details about our Action Learning offer later in 2021. 

Other ways we can support 

We’re doing a huge amount of influencing and engagement work for our members on the net-zero agenda; use the links below to find support and information. 

On-demand webinars from last year’s #Our North Net Zero event series 

Documents, publications and resources 

Our next series of online Net Zero events will be launched later this year, and bookings are now open (with no charge for NHC members) for our annual Northern Housing Summit, taking place on the mornings of the 2nd and 4th November – book your place here now!

£350m Sustainable Warmth Competition opens for bids

A further £350m of funding is now available to upgrade the homes of low-income residents. Local authorities have until 4th August to submit bids to the Sustainable Warmth Competition – which combines the third round of Local Authority Delivery and the new Home Upgrade Grant scheme.

£200m is available through the Local Authority Delivery (LAD3) element. This is focused on low-income households with a gas connection. The focus is on homes with Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) ratings of E, F and G – though a limited proportion of Band D homes are permitted in bids.

A further £150m is available for the first round of the Home Upgrade Grant (HUG).  HUG is focused on low-income households whose properties lack a gas connection. Funding is available for multiple measures, with the intention of substantially improving energy performance.

The focus for both schemes is owner-occupied and privately rented homes, though a proportion of social housing (around 10%) is permitted as part of area-based schemes. Bids must be led by local authorities.  The Social Housing Decarbonisation Fund – the first wave of which is expected to be launched in the Autumn – is intended to provide funding for social sector homes.

Funding for both schemes will be allocated by the end of 2021 and projects must complete by the end of March 2023.

Commenting, NHC Chief Executive Tracy Harrison said, “It’s encouraging to see more funding coming forward for home upgrades – and to see more realistic timescales for bids and delivery. I know that NHC local authority members across the North will be keen to take advantage of this opportunity to green homes and create jobs.”

Guidance on the scheme, and details of how to apply for funding, can be accessed at https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/apply-for-the-sustainable-warmth-competition


Partnership Working at a Local Level

Geraldine Howley, Chair of the CIH Governing Board,  GEM Programme Director

As a passionate believer in partnership working, I was privileged to be directly involved in the NHC Commission for Housing in the North. Looking back at the five years since the publication of the Commission’s report in 2016, it’s also important to bear in mind we have experienced Grenfell and Covid, plus defining social justice campaigns like Black Lives Matter, all of which have brought people and organisations together to make a difference to people’s lives. Of course, with a crystal ball, we might have said even more in 2016 about the growing importance of collaboration as the means of addressing health, economic, environmental, educational and other inequalities, plus of course, building safety. But thankfully, in this changing world we are demonstrating the critical importance of partnership working and we have some great examples of local authorities and housing associations working together in a variety of ways beyond simply providing housing.

The 2015 report of the Commission was fundamentally right in defining the Housing crisis in the North as being distinctly different to that facing the rest of the country. The Commission recognised that in the North there are areas where the issue isn’t simply about a shortage of supply or affordability, but also low value, obsolete properties and other issues such as fuel poverty and economic discontent.

Lord Best said the Commission was calling for primacy to be given to place, and the need to work together in new forms of collaboration to make this happen with flexibility, powers and resources. The catalyst for making this change has been local authority strategic leadership which has united housing providers and developers in a shared vision for meeting common place-based objectives. Strong civic leadership with a convincing local narrative has set the tone for enabling the sharing of best practice. Local, local, local is the focus for successful partnership working, and the sharing of skills and other resources to meet the housing opportunities in the North.

In Bradford, the Goitside regeneration is an exemplar of partnership working at a local level and clearly demonstrates how place-based regeneration does work. Chain Street is part of this regeneration and provides an excellent case study of how the collaboration of Bradford Council, Incommunities, Homes England and the private sector can achieve place-based transformation. The Bradford Health and Well-being Board provides another example of local authority leadership working innovatively to embrace the housing sector. Partners from housing have joined NHS, CCG, the third sector, police, fire and Bradford council in an inclusive approach to improve lives in the communities they serve.

In 2018 Calderdale Council and Together Housing Group entered into an investment partnership to deliver six hundred and fifty new homes by 2023 across Calderdale. The Council supports the partnership through the identification of land in its ownership which is transferred to Together Housing Group below market value to achieve ‘best value’ through the realisation of new, high quality, affordable homes. Beech Hill in the centre of Halifax is one of the challenging projects which will enable £15.5m investment to provide a mix of two, three and four bedroomed homes at affordable rents. This innovative project will incorporate cycle ways and public open space.

Partnership working is also realising huge benefits at a regional level, as well as locally. The West Yorkshire Housing Partnership provides an important vehicle for engaging housing associations in an improved relationship with the Combined Authority. The partnership provides a single voice for housing in the region and has engaged in the Brownfield Housing Fund Programme which will see three hundred affordable homes built at the South Bank in Leeds.

Creating a better world requires partnership working. The Commission for Housing in the North was right to highlight its criticality to addressing the unique challenges we face. It is so encouraging to see so many local, and regional, organisations providing the leadership to work effectively together. We will need partnership working for many decades to come; together we are stronger in improving people’s lives.

The Northern Housing Summit 2021 – bookings now open!

Northern Housing Summit 2021 – Tuesday 2nd November – AM & Thursday 4th November – AM 

Click here to book your place

The Northern Housing Summit is back for 2021 as an online event and at no cost to NHC members. Taking place during Glasgow’s COP26 and hosted over two half days, our focus will again be firmly on decarbonisation and net-zero as a key priority for our membership. 

We are delighted to confirm that The Rt Hon Kwasi Kwarteng MP, Secretary of State at the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, will make an address on Day 1 of the conference. 

Day 1 will feature high-impact keynote speeches from leaders and influencers on the net-zero agenda. We will also launch the findings from our Tenants’ Jury, a group of tenants from our Northern membership who are considering the design and implementation of decarbonisation measures across the home. The conclusions drawn by the Jury will enable members to truly embed the tenant voice in the design and delivery of domestic retrofit measures. 

 Day 2 will be focused, practical workshop sessions – we know from last year’s feedback that members enjoy the opportunity to get together in smaller groups to learn, discuss and challenge. Join us on day 2 for discussion-oriented, informative breakout sessions. 

 By making a booking you’ll be given access to both conference days – we’ll be in touch nearer the time to ask you to choose your breakout session preferences for day 2. 

There is no charge for members to attend the Summit, and we’ll be announcing our speakers very soon. 

Click here to book your place

7,500 Tenants Across the North to receive Climate Jury Invitation this Week

7,500 social housing tenants from across the North will this week be invited to register their interest in taking part in a first of its kind engagement exercise. Of those eager to take part, a final ‘Social Housing Tenants’ Climate Jury’ of 30 residents will be tasked with developing recommendations as to how they, along with social housing providers and others, can work together to tackle climate change in our homes and neighbourhoods.

Launched by the Northern Housing Consortium alongside partners First Choice Homes Oldham, Karbon Homes, Salix Homes, Thirteen Group, and Yorkshire Housing, the Social Housing Tenants’ Climate Jury is a concept adapted from Citizens’ Juries and Assemblies, a ‘deliberative democracy’ approach for making decisions. Participants are selected at random to deliberate and seek consensus on a set issue, before producing a set of recommendations for policymakers.

In recent years Citizens’ Juries have become a popular way to include the public on the question of how best to tackle climate change. 2020 saw the House of Commons convene the national ‘Climate Assembly UK’ where 108 people from all walks of life met for six weeks to answer the question “how should the UK meet its target of net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050?”. At a local level Climate Juries have been held in Leeds, Sheffield, Oxford, Cambridge, Devon, Kendal, and seven London Boroughs.

Working with community interest company Shared Future and adapted to focus on the social housing sector the Jury, made up of tenants recruited from each partner Housing Association, will explore tenants’ views on retrofit, their opinions of specific measures, and their preferences for how these kinds of interventions should be undertaken in their homes and neighbourhoods. They will also have the chance to say what information they need before, during, and after the retrofit process to use low carbon heating technology confidently.

As part of the project an Oversight Panel has been set up to provide purpose, build legitimacy and ensure a rigorous process whereby the Jury is informed by balanced and accurate information. The Panel brings together a range of stakeholders with project partners being joined by experts representing national, regional and local governance, the civil service, the tenant voice agenda, retrofit practitioners, academia, and the charitable sector. Importantly, all Oversight Panel members are in a position to reflect on the outcomes of the Jury and how they relate to their own areas of work.

The findings of the Jury will be presented at the Northern Housing Summit on the 2nd and 4th of November.

For more information on the Social Housing Tenants’ Jury, including the Oversight Panel, please visit the Northern Housing Consortium’s dedicated webpage:


SMS becomes member of Northern Housing Consortium  

The smart energy solutions provider, SMS, has become the latest Supporter member of the Northern Housing Consortium (NHC) following the launch of its fullyfinanced and intelligentlyoperated solar PV + battery storage solution for social housingSolopower 

 SMS plc joins Northern Housing Consortium possessing a long history working with the UK public sector – as well as the wider housing sector – through its range of energy services offered independently and procurable through the Crown Commercial Service frameworks.  

These partnerships include the delivery of utility infrastructure for large housing estates and as lead partner on several smart energy consortia projects alongside local authorities and Innovate UKincluding the pioneering ReFLEX Orkney 

Supporting social landlords with sustainability  

Building on this longstanding energy and engineering expertise – which includes its central role in the smart meter rollout (having so far installed more than 1.5 million smart meters on behalf of utility suppliers in homes across Britainas well as its work to deliver strategic energy management for large public and private organisations – the company recently unveiled a unique solution for the social housing sector, Solopower 

Through Solopower, SMS is partnering with local councils and housing associations to significantly upgrade the energy performance of social accommodation, delivering solar generation, battery storage, and smart meters to landlords and their residents at zero upfront cost. 

In deploying these home energy technologies – which are intelligently controlled and optimised by SMS’s FlexiGrid™ aggregation software – Solopower aims to decarbonise social housing electricity supply by approximately 90% per home. In doing so, the solution will contribute to the enhancement of Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) ratings and reduce tenant electricity bills by up to 25%. 

Helping combat fuel poverty  

With the residential sector one of the country’s largest greenhouse gas emitters, the financing of clean technology across the UK housing stock will not only be essential for meeting the Government’s Net Zero 2050 target, but also to increase affordability of energy and alleviate fuel poverty (a problem exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic). SMS’s financed solution therefore offers the social housing sector a unique opportunity to meet their carbon reduction and fuel poverty objectives.  

In addition to design, supply, and install, SMS remotely operates the behind-the-meter battery systems using its FlexiGrid platform to maximise each home’s consumption of self-generated renewable electricity, with the service enabled through a Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) between SMS and the landlord. 

Initial projects already underway  

SMS is currently delivering Solopower on three social housing projects with local authorities in Scotland across an initial 700 houses. This includes a scheme with Aberdeen City Council – backed by the Government’s Social Housing Decarbonisation Fund Demonstrator – which additionally looks to demonstrate the innovative integration of heat pumps and fabric retrofits with the model.  

Commenting on SMS’s new membership with Northern Housing Consortium, Mark Hamilton, Managing Director at SMS (Solopower) said: 

 “We’re thrilled to join the NHC, which will enable us to link up with other local authority, ALMO, and housing association members in order to share ideas and achieve our common goal, which is to create a social housing sector that is smarter, greener, and more affordable for landlords and tenants alike. 

“Our Solopower solution is at the heart of this objective, and by rolling it out initially in partnership with social landlords, we can help ensure that the advantages of cleaner, lower-cost energy reach some of the most fuel-poor households first. 

Kate Maughan, Director of Member Engagement at Northern Housing Consortium said: 

“We’re delighted to welcome SMS as Supporter Members of the NHC. The decarbonisation of housing stock is a top priority for our members and the innovative solutions and expert advice provided by SMS will be of huge value in helping the sector play its part in meeting the government’s targets on net zero. We’re looking forward to inviting members to events over the coming months where they can hear more about the support SMS can provide.” 


If you are interested in SMS’s Solopower, available exclusively for social housing landlords, visit www.sms-plc.com/solopower, where you can read more information including a downloadable brochure and FAQs. You can contact the SMS Solopower team directly at solopower@sms-plc.com