How is the UK energy crisis affecting housing associations and their residents?

How is the UK energy crisis affecting housing associations and their residents?

The UK’s energy crisis has dominated the headlines over the last few months, after the price cap was raised in April 2022. Charities and campaign groups such as National Energy Action (NEA) warn that as many as 2 million households could be plunged into fuel poverty without additional support.  


But how has the energy crisis affected housing associations, and the people who live in the UK’s 4.4 million social housing properties? 


The sector faces a number of challenging and complex issues in relation to rising bills. This is not only due to the raising of the price cap, but also Russia’s military invasion of Ukraine. The timing of this conflict has exacerbated supply issues and pushed prices up further.  


Some housing associations manage energy for schemes where the price cap doesn’t apply. Others are coming to the end of contracts or are supplied by Russian energy company Gazprom Energy and need to terminate the relationship as soon as possible.  


With few or no affordable alternatives available, and potentially tens of thousands of homes to heat while the energy market remains highly volatile, they face extremely difficult decisions. 

A top priority for housing associations will always be to protect tenants and leaseholders from unaffordable energy bills, mitigating the impact of the crisis wherever they can. 


NHF calls for government support  


The National Housing Federation (NHF) wrote to the RT Hon Kwasi Kwarteng MP, the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy.  


The organisation, which describes itself as “the voice of England’s housing associations” is asking for urgent clarification and support on two key issues. These are: 


  • For the government to provide targeted financial support for housing associations to cover the rise in energy bills for households that aren’t protected by the energy price cap. This will provide similar protection and support as other domestic energy customers.  
  • For the government to provide clarification on the legal implications of housing associations voluntarily ending contracts with Russia-owned energy suppliers.   


In response to this second point, the Cabinet Office released a Procurement Policy Note for public sector organisations who hold contracts with Russian or Belarusian suppliers. It offers guidance on following legally compliant processes for terminating such contracts, although warns that this should only be done if an affordable alternative supplier can be found. Understandably, the NHF is seeking further clarification on this.  


There may also be plans on the horizon to fund retrofitting homes with energy efficiency measures. As part of the latest round of its Energy Company Obligation, the government is making £4 billion available for the scheme, and social housing properties will be eligible if they have an EPC rating of between E and G.   


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