Achieving net zero in social housing: Zero Emissions Social Housing Taskforce report

This report outlines work undertaken by Zero Emission Social Housing Task Force. Within the report the recommendations set out what is required to achieve zero emission housing whilst ensuring support for tenants in reducing their energy bills and achieving carbon savings.

Appendix C: ZEST Terms of Reference

The Zero Emissions Social Housing Taskforce (ZEST) is an independent short life working group convened between April and June 2021, which will look to provide recommendations from the perspective of the social housing sector to the incoming administration after the parliamentary elections. It will also look ahead to the next Programme for Government, COP26 and finalisation of both the Heat in Buildings Strategy and the Fuel Poverty Strategy later in 2021.

ZEST is asked to consider the blueprint for the ideal system that promotes the economic and environmental aspirations for Scotland in the short, medium, and long-term of the actions required by all parts of the social housing sector in achieving zero emissions homes while maximising the wider social and economic opportunities relating to green jobs and warm, quality, sustainable homes.

Given that new build housing provides an opportunity to build homes that will be net zero ready and do not need to be retrofitted in the future, to reduce overall heat demand through high levels of fabric energy efficiency, and to greatly scale up the installation of zero direct emissions heating systems, this work will therefore need to focus on how to accelerate change for existing homes. In particular, this needs to recognise the specific challenges around decarbonisation of tenements and older stock, and the challenges for those who are in or at risk of fuel poverty.

The work of ZEST is to be guided by the following principles:

a. ZEST must produce clear messages and there must be a commitment to dialogue where unknown factors persist.

b. ZEST must support the principles of a just transition to net zero, including but not limited to tackling fuel poverty and achieving zero emissions targets, and recognising the links with housing affordability.

c. All parts of the housing system will be affected in reaching the statutory net zero targets. Although ZEST’s work is focused primarily on the role of social landlords for their existing housing stock, it should be assumed that over time all tenures will be impacted.

d. Practical practitioner input is fundamental.

e. Solutions should be cost-effective, and the costs of the transition should not fall disproportionately on those least able to pay.

f. The purpose of ZEST is to help ensure social landlords are appropriately informed in their thinking and investment planning, and that lessons can be replicated at scale across tenures.

Work by social landlords can be a catalyst for stimulating the supply chain as well as creating and protecting jobs and supporting innovations in technologies needed to achieve low and zero emission systems to be deployed at scale. To ensure focused, solutions-oriented work is undertaken, ZEST needs to consider the following framing questions to guide its deliberations and engagement

1. What barriers exist to driving forwards a just transition to net zero in the social rented sector and what is required from all partners to address these barriers?

  • As a number of stakeholders will be impacted differently, it is important that consideration is given to what is required from (a) social landlords, (b) tenants, (c) local and national government, (d) the private sector, and (e) the wider public.
  • How can we make it as easy as possible for social landlords to know what to do and to make it happen, and how could specific advice be provided as complex decision making will be required where there remain currently significant unknowns?
  • What technical and specific guidance is needed for social housing to complement existing sources of information and advice?
  • What practical support is needed and how could this be facilitated, such as collaborative procurement, pooling of funding and resources?
  • What existing research and experience can we draw on?
  • How can we identify technical paths to heat decarbonisation that will meet the needs of areas and take account of existing work underway such as LHEES?
  • What technical elements need exploration? For example, cavity wall insulation; heat networks; heat pumps and how these can meet the objectives of landlords’ overall plans for decarbonisation for their stock and tenants.
  • Workforce planning – what skills, re-training and staff resources are needed to make the zero emissions heat transition in the social housing sector?
  • How can we address particular challenges around tenements and older stock (and do we know enough about what those challenges are and whether bespoke approaches are needed or if standard solutions can be made to work)?
  • How can we address the particular challenges and opportunities around island and rural housing (and do we know enough about what those challenges are and whether bespoke approaches are needed or if standard solutions can be made to work)?

2. How can all partners come together to ensure funding and finance incentivise and enable a just and fair transition to net zero for the social sector at the pace and scale required?

  • How can Scottish Government investment support the transition alongside investment from social landlords?
  • What are the options for how this can be financed? Existing/mainstream and new/novel ideas?
  • What other financial levers are required to support all of these through the transition and what partnerships are needed?
  • How can we create incentives for fabric upgrades alongside the move towards regulating emissions from buildings?

3. What is required to ensure we continue to make progress on tackling fuel poverty while achieving zero emissions homes in the social housing sector?

  • How can we ensure a just transition, managing to alleviate fuel poverty as we go?
  • Which combinations of technologies should be deployed in support of addressing fuel poverty and zero emissions objectives?
  • How can innovation support attainment of both objectives?
  • What is required beyond fabric improvement and technology deployment in recognition that some of the decisions for the gas network are yet to be made by the UK Government?
  • How can the costs and benefits of the transition be shared equitably?
  • What wider changes might be required across the non-fabric drivers of fuel poverty and how can these be progressed?

4. How do we maximise the social and economic opportunities in the transition?

  • How can social housing stimulate the supply chain?
  • What is the bigger picture, e.g. what is the role of social landlords in 20 minute neighbourhoods, active travel, etc.?
  • How can we create lots of good new jobs? How can we protect existing ones?
  • What do tenants need from the transition?
  • How does the transition support local community wealth-building, retaining value locally and increasing local incomes (which in turn supports alleviation of poverty)?


ZEST will produce a qualitative report, with recommended actions for the Scottish Government to consider and inform its broader strategies, and where it will respond to the recommendations made by ZEST. The report will also be used as sectoral evidence to inform the broader finalisation of the Heat in Buildings Strategy. ZEST has the scope to decide who else it will provide its recommendations.



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