VIDEO | What challenges stand in the way of retrofitting social housing?

Without a doubt, the scale of the need for retrofit in council homes is immense. A roundtable discussion hosted by Onward Homes highlighted ways we can tackle the problem.

Sat around the table were local authorities, a contractor, sustainability consultants, and a housing association. The conversation covered the challenges retrofit programmes face, how national and local government can help, and ways to enable delivery at scale.

You can hear highlights and our panellists main takeaways in the video at the top of this article.


  • David Colbourne, housing retrofit manager at Liverpool City Region Combined Authority
  • Gavin Griffith, strategic housing programme manager at Cheshire West & Chester Council
  • Ellie Kuitunen, principal energy and carbon consultant at Hydrock
  • Sandy Livingstone, executive director of property at Onward Homes
  • Anees Mank, programme and policy lead for retrofit at Greater Manchester Combined Authority
  • Ben Murphy, net zero compliance manager at Wates Construction
  • Neil Warburton, director of regeneration and sustainability at EQUANS UK
  • chaired by Julia Hatmaker, editor of Place North West

Key talking points

Now is the time to act when it comes to retrofitting social homes, according to the panel. It cannot be delayed any longer, they said. If the net zero targets are going to be met, action needs to be taken now.

Retrofit is more than just making a home energy efficient, the panel agreed. Providing a warm, affordable home can help improve health outcomes and help tenants keep more cash in their pockets.

If we’re keeping tenants at the heart of the retrofit focus, then it is equally important that they are brought along on the journey. There needs to be better education regarding the benefits of external wall insulation and air-source heat pumps. The use of demonstration homes was mentioned as they allow the public to come in and touch and see the improvements. Others discussed the value of customer champions who can vouch for the effectiveness of a retrofit programme.

When it comes to delivery at scale, the panel spoke about a shift towards a place approach – such as looking at decarbonising a street or district. This goes beyond just affordable housing, to all kinds of buildings. It also enables larger infrastructure aspects of improving the sustainability of homes, such as adding district heat networks.

A large-scale problem needs a long-term solution, the panel agreed. This requires stability and support from central government – as well as a funding stream that goes beyond just one or two years. Local authorities and housing associations also need to not just wait for central government to reveal a funding pot – instead, they need to begin the work now so that it’s ready when the funding is announced, not after.

The need for a “coalition of the willing” was brought up time and time again, with those in the room stressing that partnership and collaboration were the only way to meet the retrofit need.

For more from this roundtable discussion, you can simply watch the video at the top of this article or on the Place North West YouTube channel.  Learn more about Onward at


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