Through its Sustainability Strategy 2021-26, housing association First Choice Homes Oldham (FCHO) is working to decarbonise its homes. This will help tackle climate change and deliver a range of other benefits: from helping residents to save money, tackling fuel poverty and providing quality homes that are fit for the future; to boosting the economy and creating green jobs. The housing association owns and manages around 11,500 homes and around 10% of the local population live in a FCHO home.

Making energy efficiency improvements to existing homes is a significant part of FCHO’s plan. Improving their energy performance will help the housing association move closer to ambitious net zero carbon targets and make a positive difference to residents and communities.


FCHO delivered a whole house retrofit project from October 2021 to September 2022 on six of its least energy efficient properties across the Borough of Oldham, to help cut carbon emissions and reduce energy bills for residents. The aim was to create a scalable blueprint for how it would improve the energy efficiency of many more of its homes and achieve its ambitious sustainability plans.

The housing association identified six properties with poor energy performance, a mix of terraced houses and bungalows built between the 1930s and 1970s. They worked with a local contractor to plan the upgrades, which were tailored to each home’s requirements.

The housing association worked with residents in neighbourhoods across the borough to agree and install measures such as solar panels, triple glazed windows, new doors, and cavity wall insulation – all carefully tailored to each of the homes’ requirements. One home also had its gas central heating system replaced with renewable energy technology in the form of an air source heat pump (ASHP).

Throughout the retrofit programme, the FCHO team and contractors kept in regular contact with residents, answering questions, scheduling work to minimise disruption and informing them about progress with the works. FCHO was also involved in the Social Housing Tenants’ Climate Jury which saw 30 social housing tenants produce a set of recommendations to the sector on how to work together to tackle climate change in our homes and neighbourhoods.


The investment has led to a significant improvement in the energy efficiency of all six properties – bringing the homes up to Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) B, from band D or E.

FCHO predicts that the modifications will also save each home around £400 per year on their energy bills. The housing association will be monitoring energy consumption through smart thermostats over the coming years and working with residents to minimise their energy use and increase cost savings.


“This exciting pilot programme has been a crucial step in our ambitious retrofit journey and achieving our net zero carbon targets. We are a responsible landlord and as part of taking these types of societal decisions, we do so knowing that the next generation are relying on us to do the right thing, especially on net zero carbon targets.

Vital learning from the project is informing how we deliver important improvements to more of our customers’ homes, ultimately providing properties that are more energy efficient, warmer and with lower energy bills for customers and benefitting the environment.”


The pilot has enabled the team to explore the benefits of retrofitting compared with replacing older homes with energy efficient new-build homes, see the impact that sustainable technologies can have, as well as develop an understanding of the size of the retrofitting challenge ahead.

Residents having a positive experience is important. Resident feedback and engagement has highlighted potential barriers to energy efficiency uptake and how important it is for residents to have a positive experience of the work – before, during and after it has taken place.


FCHO is already using learning from the retrofit pilot to inform work to improve the energy performance of many more of its homes. It is also utilising grant funding combined with internal investment to move closer to its target of retrofitting energy efficiency measures to a significant proportion of its homes by 2030 and achieving its net zero carbon targets.

In 2022, the housing provider was awarded £1 million funding from the government’s Social Housing Decarbonisation Fund (SHDF) wave one and contributed £600,000 to retrofit 200 FCHO-owned homes with energy saving technologies that will help cut residents’ gas and/or electric bills by up to a third.

In spring 2023, FCHO successfully secured £2.4 million of funding from SHDF wave two and committed £3 million to deliver green upgrades to a further 360 social homes that have an EPC rating below C. The work represents the third largest SHDF programme across Greater Manchester and will be delivered by March 2025.