Net Zero and New Homes : Housing’s role in the North’s recovery

This will be a significant week. On Wednesday, Chancellor Rishi Sunak will present his Summer Economic Update – and here at the NHC, we hope he will take the opportunity to place net zero and new homes at the heart of the North’s recovery, writes NHC Chief Executive Tracy Harrison.

The Chancellor has previously warned that we face a ‘severe recession, the likes of which we have not seen.’ Forecasts suggest that the effects of this recession will be most strongly felt in the North, setting back efforts to level-up.

Just as housing organisations across the North have played an important role in the immediate response to Covid-19, we’re keen to play our part in the North’s economic and social recovery.

There is a real opportunity to use the Summer Economic Update to provide an economic stimulus which will also deliver on Government’s existing priorities on levelling-up, net zero and new homes. Following extensive consultation with our members, the NHC has submitted a paper to Government setting out how Rishi Sunak can do this – it’s about net zero and new homes.

Advancing towards net zero by investing in the North’s existing homes

A quarter of the North’s carbon emissions come from our existing homes. Retrofitting
these homes will be necessary to deliver on net zero, and in the social sector there is
a readily available delivery mechanism. Improving the North’s homes even at a
steady rate could create 20,000 jobs at pace, providing a direct and positive impact
on local supply chains. It will put money back in people’s pockets through energy bill
savings, and reduce pressure on the NHS.

To create this net zero stimulus, we have recommended that Government:
• Confirm their 2019 manifesto commitments to a Social Housing Decarbonisation Fund and Home Upgrade Grants
• Bring forward the £3.8bn Social Housing Decarbonisation Fund with immediate effect, enabling councils and housing associations to invest at scale and pace

New homes to meet the needs of a levelled-up region

The North needs a housing offer to meet the needs of its current and future
population – around 50,000 new homes every year. Building new affordable homes,
and readying sites for future housing growth of all tenures will provide an immediate,
tried-and-tested boost to the Northern economy. It will contribute to
Government’s ambition to boost housing supply across the country.

To create this new home stimulus, we recommend that Government:
• Immediately open the £12bn Affordable Homes Programme announced at
Budget 2020, with flexibilities on tenure and delivery
• Bring forward the Single Housing Infrastructure Fund announced at Budget 2020, opening the whole fund to the whole country.
The North’s housing sector already supports over 100,000 jobs and over £10bn of economic activity. We’re rooted in communities and keen to work with Government to make the North an even greater place to live.
There is a real opportunity to recover from Covid-19 in a way that creates jobs, cuts carbon and builds homes and lives. We urge Government to grasp it.