York Greens tackling the retrofit challenge

With Green Party councillor, Denise Craghill in charge of housing the council is making good progress with improving the energy efficiency of York’s existing homes.

It has successfully won more than £2.6m of initial Government funding – nearly £1.5m of that for York – the rest bringing funds into the nearby region as the lead authority in a joint bid.

This includes funding for insulating rooms in roofs, improving loft and cavity wall insulation and installing solar panels, as well as the installation of some air source heat pumps and external wall insulation via two local housing associations. If successful, a further £4.6m bid will extend measures to another 200 fuel poor homes in York and will include external wall and underfloor insulation as well.

The council is getting projects started on the ground. Visits are currently taking place to homeowners including Private Rented Sector properties, in parts of the city with the highest rates of fuel poverty and lowest EPC ratings – so far at least 19 householders are now applying to take forward room in roof work, with a further 50 potential applications for improved insulation. You can find out more about this programme at https://www.york.gov.uk/HUG

The second phase of the programme will run through to December 2021, with the capacity to improve a further 81 rooms in roofs and install improved insulation in a further 160 homes.

A £1m council housing energy efficiency retrofit programme to improve 60 homes is also progressing, despite some challenges, making the most of opportunities to match available council funding with Government funds and improve a larger number of homes in the long run.

Plans are underway to complete some of the first 60 homes by Christmas, alongside a planned bid this Autumn to the Social Housing Decarbonisation Fund, which it is hoped will provide more substantial investment through to March 2023.

On 2nd August Cllr Craghill approved a £4.6m consortium bid to the Sustainable Warmth Competition. £2.3m  will be for use in York to extend the existing room in roof and insulation programmes to a further 200 fuel poor households but also include measures such as external wall insulation, underfloor insulation and solar panels and hybrid air source heat pumps.

The council is growing its staff capacity, knowledge and expertise in energy efficiency retrofit in order to tackle the scale of the challenge to greatly reduce carbon emissions from the citys’s 90,000 homes by 2030. A Housing Energy Efficiency Manager has been appointed and other staff recruited. A city wide retrofit strategy will be published for consultation later in the Autumn.

Most councils are facing challenges with progressing energy efficiency retrofit including lack of consistent, sustained and long term Government funding and very short completion deadlines; lack of staff capacity and expertise; supply chain limitations with respect to local companies available to do the work; along with financial challenges and the practical issues for homeowners around managing projects and dealing with disruption.

The council is getting on with tackling all of these local challenges, whilst also lobbying government for more consistent and longer term funding and working closely with other local organisations to develop a strategy for the whole city.

Cllr Denise Craghill says ‘As a very new area of activity there are bound to be glitches along the way but I am confident we are making really good progress. Council officers are successfully bringing a lot of much needed extra funding into the city and we are taking a lead at the regional level. There is a long way to go to scale up energy efficiency retrofit to the levels we need to meet our 2030 zero carbon target for the city but we are making a really good start. Retrofit not only tackles climate change but also means less energy use and lower bills and provides healthier, more comfortable homes. It also has the potential to create hundreds of new jobs in the city.’

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