Housing in 2050: Where do we need to be? New research

April 30, 2018

Image: Soltherm

Following the Paris Agreement of 2015, the important role that businesses can play in tackling climate change and driving environmental improvements has become ever clearer. In the UK this has already been witnessed to some extent in the decarbonisation of the power grid; the growth of renewables has helped to decouple economic growth from carbon emissions; Britons have been getting richer, on average, than any other G7 nation while also reducing their carbon footprint at the fastest rate [1]. And whilst the UK economy has decoupled carbon emissions from growth, the housing sector has not. There are also exciting signs of a sea change around plastic, electric vehicles and air pollution. However there has not yet been such progressive action in housing.

At present, the housing sector has seen very little in the way of science based target setting, commitments to low carbon pathways, improvements to housing standards or ambitious action on sustainable strategies. As a whole the sector accounts for 22% of the national carbon footprint[2], so in order to meet 2050 targets (an 80% reduction in national carbon emissions from 1990 levels), it will need to take a much more proactive approach. Increased support and guidance from government could certainly help, but there are also measures to take in the meantime that make business sense, regardless of policy pressures.

So, what steps should housing providers be taking now to ensure that 2050 carbon targets are met? How can they improve the climate resilience of their homes? And what can they do to future-proof their technology and assets, in preparation for a new, low carbon economy?

These are the key questions that Sustainable Homes will be exploring in the new research project, ‘Housing 2050: roadmap for low carbon action’. With particular regard to housing associations, the research will focus on the following areas:

  • Low carbon heat – What will housing associations have to do to adapt to a post gas world? How can associations avoid stranded assets? What are the opportunities, and what are the costs of delayed action in the transition away from gas?
  • Renewables and clean energy – How can the sector embrace clean energy and divest from fossil fuels in its operations?
  • Electric vehicles – What will housing associations have to do to be ready for changing consumer habits and a move away from fossil fuel based fleets? How can the sector exploit the intersection between storage, vehicles and renewables?
  • Climate resilience – What is the financial exposure of the sector to climate change? What is the cost of mitigation?
  • Divestment – What is the housing sector’s exposure to the carbon bubble? How can they mitigate this?
  • Resources and capacity – Do housing associations have the internal capacity,
    resource and expertise to manage the risks and deliver the low carbon roadmap?

The research will be conducted between June and September 2018, through a combination of surveys, roundtables, interviews, economic modelling and secondary research. It will identify where the housing sector needs to be by 2050 in terms of sustainability, and provide a roadmap with actions for housing providers to take in stages over the next 32 years.

Interested in getting involved? There are opportunities open to participate and to sponsor the research. Find out more and download the full proposal here


This research is complete. The research report and launch presentations can be downloaded here:

Housing 2050 analysis – 25th February 2019

How UK social housing can meet the challenge of climate change – main report – 25th February 2019

How UK social housing can meet the challenge of climate change presentation – 25th February 2019

UK housing: fit for the future? – 25th February 2019


[1] http://eciu.net/press-releases/2017/report-25-years-after-rio-uk-leads-g7-in-both-growth-and-carbon-cuts

[2] https://www.edie.net/blog/Paving-the-way-to-a-better-built-environment/6098494

Cecily Church