Passivhaus Affiliate

Tackling social housing stigma

The recent social housing green paper aims to tackle the often-negative perceptions associated with it. The executive summary outlines that ‘this Green Paper, ‘A new deal for social housing’, proposes a rebalancing of the relationship between residents and landlords. We will ensure our social homes are safe and decent, that issues are resolved, and residents’ voices are heard. We will begin to tackle the stigma which for too long has been associated with social housing. And we will ensure we build the good quality social homes that we need.’

A new deal for social housing

The report acknowledges that the Housing Market is broken. It is critical that quantity does not compromise quality and we deliver homes that are fit for the 22nd century taking account of whole life costs and occupant health and wellbeing. PHT Patron member, Exeter City Council, welcome the social housing green paper, stating that it is both a timely and an important contribution to the debate on the requirements of social housing.

The Government is faced with a moment in time when it can reshape social housing, making it an integral part of society. If the Government is to succeed in turning the housing crisis into an opportunity it needs to think big, be ambitious and be exemplary.

Exeter City Council is a stock-owning authority that has successfully delivered several certified Passivhaus schemes. We have a Council-owned Housing Company with a pipeline of new housing developments. We are very encouraged by the Government’s support to local authorities to enable them to build more and we are supportive of the Government’s intentions to allow local authorities to borrow more to build and to explore new flexibilities over how to spend Right to Buy receipts and not requiring local authorities to make a payment in respect of their vacant higher value council homes. Raising the borrowing cap by up to £1 billion in areas of high affordability pressure such as Exeter is welcomed but the level of ambition needs to significantly increase if the Government is going to see a step-change in housing delivery at a local authority level.

Providing certainty about future rental income through the new rent settlement of Consumer Price Index +1 per cent to 2025 is most beneficial for all affordable housing providers. It would be helpful if the timeframe could be extended beyond 2025 to take account of the time lag for development which can typically take from 2 to 10 years dependent of the scale and complexity of the development scheme.

Emma Osmundsen, Director of Development, Exeter City Council

Knights Place, Gale & Snowden Wimbish Passivhaus, Parsons + Whittley for Hastoe HA

L-R: Knights Place, Exeter City Council, Wimbish Passivhaus, Hastoe Housing Association

It’s positive to see a real focus on design quality in the new green paper. When Hastoe develops in rural areas, we find quality design, in the local vernacular, is our best weapon to increase support for new social homes. We are also very pleased by proposals to update the Decent Homes Standard. New social homes should be safe, warm and built to the highest possible energy efficiency standards. The Government should also be bold and provide proper funding to hit the target of all social homes meeting an EPC Band C by 2030.

Now that the Green Paper has scrapped the policy of forcing councils selling off their high-value properties, it is not clear how the voluntary Right to Buy policy will be funded. RTB takes away a social rented property that often isn't replaced. In rural villages, this could reduce social housing stock closer to none. Aspiring homes owners have other routes into ownership that don't reduce social housing for others in need. 

On increasing supply, it’s disappointing there is no commitment to new investment in social housing. We would have liked to have seen more grants for affordable rural homes and to build homes to standards like Passivhaus. We will be making these points strongly in the consultation to ensure the need for quality, sustainable and affordable homes in Rural England is heard loud and clear in Government.

Henry Lee, Hastoe Housing


Why prioritise quality

The Trust welcomes the report, but is disappointed that it missed the opportunity to prioritise high-quality homes and to highlight the multiple benefits of energy-efficient buildings, including:

Touching the voidsFuel Poverty: Tackling fuel poverty is a key priority for many social housing providers. Sustainable Homes recent report ‘Touching the Voids’ shows a link between energy-efficient housing and reduced rent arrears. Affordable energy bills not only give tenants immediate savings on bills and therefore allow more spending in the local area, they help create funds for housing providers. Anne McLoughlin, Operations Director at PHT member Hastoe Group says “Improving rental income makes us more viable. Reducing rent arrears and voids is a key part of that. Reducing those costs enables us to build more homes”  

Healthy Homes: Studies have found that poor-quality housing adversely affects residents’ health. As well as costing little to heat in the winter, Passivhaus homes remove draughts, avoid condensation and mould, and filter dust and pollutants from the air, assisting the alleviation of allergies and respiratory diseases. The heatwaves this summer have also highlighted the importance of buildings keeping comfortably cool and the significant impact it can have on occupant’s health, particularly those that are vulnerable. The Environmental Audit Committee warns of 7,000 heat-related deaths every year in the UK by 2050. Ensuring summer comfort in buildings can reduce the strain on the NHS. The Passivhaus standard includes targets for summer comfort and provides increasingly powerful tools to help design out overheating.

Emma Osmundsen says Exeter City Council would strongly endorse consideration be given for improving the healthiness, thermal performance and climate resilience of existing social housing stock and that the Government considers appropriate finance to enable long-term resilient solutions to ensure truly decent living standards. Aligned with improvements to the Decent Homes Standard, Exeter City Council is an active advocate for promoting good design and high-quality housing for all new homes with tenure blindness across all new housing developments.

Longevity & resilience: Are housing providers on track to deliver a low carbon economy? The exacting quality assurance checks that Passivhaus certification provides guarantees that buildings will perform exactly as designed. As a tried and tested global standard, the energy used is so minimal that the building is shielded from ever increasing bills. High-quality construction should also result in fewer building defects and lower maintenance over time.

Emma Osmundsen says ‘We applaud the Government’s commitment to good design regardless of tenure and their ambitions to cut energy use of new buildings by at least half by 2030, we would like to see a greater ambition to reduce the energy use further given the need to reduce fuel poverty, provide homes that contribute towards to a zero-carbon agenda and ensure national resilience in energy supplies. Championing good design and high-quality building is to be applauded but we would urge the Government to be more ambitious and aim to deliver buildings that are high performing and climate resilient.’


The Trust’s Passivhaus Social campaign’s key objective is to help social housing providers successfully implement and deliver Passivhaus homes that provide truly affordable tenancies that are comfortable, high quality & low maintenance.  The campaign explores the above along with a whole host of other associated issues.


Further Information

Social housing green paper: A new deal for social housing – published 14th August 2018

Passivhaus Social

Touching the Voids, Sustainable Homes – published August 2018

Social Housing Green Paper: Sector calls for more investment 24 housing:

Why more housing providers should be building to Passivhaus Standard – March 2017

20th August 2018

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