17 July, 2023
It will not be news to readers that the emergence of climate chance and the on-going cost of living crisis is causing real concern. This is very apparent within the housing sector. Landlords are having to come to terms with the need to make homes more energy efficient and, for commercial properties in particular, ensure that they comply with the Energy Performance Certificate regulations, with the latest proposals putting in place the requirement to ensure properties maintain at least a rating of B on the EPC registers by 2030. This has coincided with the cost-of-living crisis which has had significant implications for tenants and their ability to meet rent demands. What needs to be considered is whether this merely poses a double blow for landlords and tenants, or whether it acts as a catalyst for real change.
In the UK, predictions are that extreme weather events will, in the future, be more frequent (for example, predictions show that the UK will experience a 10% increase in average rainfall by 2100, increasing flood risk).
Extreme weather events can cause damage to buildings, disturbing occupations, and impacting residents' physical and mental health. In addition, the financial costs associated with providing temporary accommodation, delayed development pipelines, property repairs and the potential reduction in property values, create an enormous economic burden for housing providers. In 2015, flooding in Northern England impacted over 3,000 homes, creating over £150m worth of damage, including to 300 properties owned by Salix Homes, a housing association in the Greater Manchester region.
These identified risks place a significant burden on housing associations, especially when trying to increase the proportion of affordable housing available for people that are struggling to get on the housing ladder. The rising cost of living has manifested itself in high mortgage interest rates and property prices, so the further threats that have become apparent from climate change is a cause for serious concern and uncertainty.
Change in the housing sector to protect against climate risk is taking place, albeit gradually. Some large housing associations are undertaking climate risk mapping exercises to assess the risk to both their business operations and their residents. This involves mapping and assessing the potential impacts of extreme weather events to produce an adaptation strategy and support transition planning. Integrating sustainable design principles into an organisation's way of operating can mitigate the risks and future-proof services to colleagues and customers.
The need to constantly monitor changes places even more importance on the use of Tenant Satisfaction Measure (TSM) Surveys. The English Regulator of Social Housing has created a total of 22 TSM Surveys, which were published in September last year. They cover areas such as repairs, building safety, effective compliant-handling, tenant engagement, and neighbourhood management. The use of these will be even more important in the current environment, not only to help assess how tenants are coping with the strain on their finances and the ability to meet rent demands, but also to ensure building safety is closely assessed on a regular basis. This regular assessment should help to mitigate against increased risks of floods, fires and any other extreme weather events.
These are evidence of positive steps that are being taken, highlighting how both the growing prominence of climate change and the cost-of-living crisis can act as a force for real change. Nevertheless, more work needs to be done going forwards to negate any further risks that may be identified, and to ensure action taken is anticipatory rather than reactionary.
For more information contact Joseph Monk in our Housing & Regeneration department via email or phone on 01772 202040. Alternatively send any question through to Forbes Solicitors via our online Contact Form.
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