Manchester to tackle low carbon housing retrofit challenge

  • Thursday 8 September 2022

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A report to the Council’s Environment and Climate Change Scrutiny Committee (Thurs 8 Sept) sets out the Council’s commitment to retrofitting the city’s housing to low carbon standard.

The Council’s Retrofit Plan will outline the pathway to zero carbon housing, which will be key to realising the target to become a zero-carbon city by 2038.

The report sets out a roadmap, challenges to overcome and achievements to date – and makes clear the urgency needed to work in collaboration with all housing providers to improve energy efficiency of Manchester homes and move away from fossil fuel-based heating.

The Manchester Climate Change Framework 2022 estimates that housing makes up crica 30% of the city’s total carbon emissions. Retrofitting the city’s housing stock will also provide essential in lowering resident energy bills during the cost-of-living crisis, improving the health of our residents and improving standards in the city’s existing housing stock.

The Council has committed to: 

  • Becoming a zero carbon city by 2038 
  • Reduce the Council’s direct Co2 emissions by 50% by 2025   
  • The new Housing Strategy sets a target of retrofitting at least one third of all social housing (circa 70k homes) by 2032 (This includes retrofitting 60% of the 15,700 Council-owned homes in this time) 

The Challenge

To meet the city’s 2025 zero carbon ambitions, 84000 properties will need to be retrofitted in some way. The average cost of a full property retrofit programme could be between £25,000 and £30,000.

The total cost of achieving a 50% CO2 reduction by 2025 could be £2.1bn and currently funding for retrofitting works is limited. The cost challenge will be further exacerbated by the current growing cost of materials and building supplies – along with labour shortages.


Next Steps

The Council has already invested heavily in sustainability improvements for much of the direct-owned social stock (see below for more information) - and the strategy around all homes is underway to meet the 2038 zero carbon city ambition, alongside investment in fire safety and decent homes work.

Building on the achievements to date, the Council will look to increase the scale and pace of retrofit activity and identify further funding resources to deliver the works, using both internal funding through the Housing Revenue Account (HRA) and external funding. This will require national funding to be made available, prioritising sustainability work.

The Council is currently preparing a submission for the second round of the Social Housing Decarbonisation Fund to invest in further retrofit works over the next two years, kickstarting the large-scale action on Council-owned properties alongside other social housing landlords across Greater Manchester in collaboration with GMCA.

70% of the city’s social housing stock - 51,600 homes – is owned and managed by housing associations. These organisations are developing costed investments plans for zero carbon housing and the Council is working with these companies as part of the Manchester Housing Providers Partnership to share learning around retrofit investment.

It should be noted that these organisations each face the same challenges as the Council in terms of retrofit cost and the lack of external funding.

A full draft retrofit plan will be developed for the end of 2022/23 financial year.


Achievements to date

£83m has been spent on energy efficiency improvements to Council properties in north Manchester since 2005 leading to a 49% reduction in CO2 emissions (from 55,000 to 28,000 tonnes of CO2) in the homes that have received investment.

2,100 Residents received energy advice since 2013, saving them an estimated £370k and 500 tonnes of CO2

Investment in the Council’s own stock to date includes:

  • 1,600 solid wall properties – external render and insulation (inc. 50 private properties)  
  • 14 high rise blocks of flats – external render and insulation 

  • 580 homes with heat pumps – high and low rise 

  • 2,350 roofs with solar photovoltaic (PV) systems 

  • 8 retirement blocks with solar thermal panels 

  • 300 blocks of flats with low energy lighting – high and low rise 

  • 11,000 homes with high efficiency condensing boilers 

  • 11,900 homes with double glazing 

  • 5,100 homes with cavity wall insulation 

  • 7,000 homes with loft top-up insulation

  • £12m has been secured in external grants to help fund energy improvements since 2010.

All homes under the Council’s three PFI (Private Finance Initiative) schemes have undergone energy efficiency and carbon reductions works – improving the average EPC rating from E to C.

The Miles Platting PFI already has a sustainability strategy in place to meet a 50% emissions reduction by 2031 and net zero by 2037. A zero carbon plan will be in place for the other two PFIs (Plymouth Grove and Brunswick) by the end of 23/24.

One Manchester housing association successfully bid for £3.12m Social Housing Decarbonisation Funding for a pilot scheme in east Manchester. 90 properties will receive full retrofit works with 70% also taking up heat pumps.

Wythenshawe Community Housing Group also received £800k funding to retrofit 150 homes with improved insulation and roofs, raising their EPC banding to C. Further funding was received by Your Housing Group, Jigsaw Homes, Mosscare St Vincent and Salix Homes.

Wave 2 of the Social Housing Decarbonisation Fund is opening soon and the Council is working in partnership with GMCA on a coordinated bid.   


Owner Occupiers and the Private Rented Sector

A management agent has been procured by GMCA (Your Home Better) to provide impartial advice to homeowners about how to retrofit their homes, along with recommended steps and likely costs.

The Council also offers interest free loans of up to £10,000 (administration fee payable) through the Home Energy Loan Plan (HELP) to help fund sustainable energy investment

A Warm Homes Manchester scheme is currently being set up to access some of the £150m national funding. This will install low carbon central heating and improve insulation for an initial 50 homes.

The private rented sector represents a significant challenge with 93,400 homes in the city and around 10,000 landlords. This makes it difficult to support the entire sector to make energy improvements and there isn’t currently any specific support for landlords. Some funding streams could apply to private rented homes, however this needs further investigation.  


Cllr Tracey Rawlins, Manchester City Council’s executive member for environment, said:

“We know that housing accounts for a significant proportion of the city’s CO2 emissions – around 30% - and therefore our retrofit plan will prove essential in our journey to become a zero carbon city by 2038.

“We need to act now – alongside our partners in the public and private sector – to meet this target, but these investments are also needed to support our residents through the ongoing, unprecedented cost-of-living and energy crisis."


Cllr Gavin White, Manchester City Council’s executive member for housing and development, said:

“The scale of the retrofit challenge is undoubtedly huge, but it’s one we need to tackle head-on, and we need to do it now. It's encouraging to see the impact of the £83m investment the city has already made in energy efficiency and sustainable technologies, and we know residents have welcomed the cost-saving measures in their homes. But we now need to scale up this work in the coming years.

“There is also a secondary opportunity to support the city’s economy as these works represent long-term employment opportunities and it’s important that we can help our residents gain the necessary retrofit skills and ensure they can take advantage of the incoming jobs.” 

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