OWNERS of tenement flats across Scotland could be hit with bills of up to £40,000 to ensure properties comply with strict Scottish Government targets to reduce carbon emissions.
Social housing landlords are facing costly upgrades to housing stock over the next ten years which aim to improve energy efficiency and reduce fuel poverty.
Tenement owners living in mixed tenure blocks factored by housing associations could also be hit with costly bills as some works would require their consent.
Housing groups have been set a new target to achieve an energy efficiency rating of 81 (100 being the highest) or to be as efficient “as practically possible by the end of December 2032.
More than 11 measures would be required for each property, including high efficiency glazing, floor and wall insulation, boiler and central heating upgrades and low energy lighting.
If all the changes were made, an estimated 303,522 tonnes of CO2 would be saved annually.
However, a report released today by the Scottish Federation of Housing Associations (SFHA) found the total number of households in fuel poverty would only be reduced from 38% to 29%, for upgrades totalling £2billion. Bills would be reduced by an average of £279 per year.
A total of 55 housing groups responded to an online survey examining the challenges of meeting the Energy Efficiency Standard for Social Housing Two (EESSH2).
Almost half of the housing groups cited the cost of upgrades as the biggest hurdle, as well as identifying suitable alternatives, such as replacements for gas boilers.
Tenement buildings and in particular mixed-tenure blocks were highlighted as particularly problematic.
One social landlord said: “It’s not just the technical challenge, the majority of tenement buildings have owners in them. In an ideal world we want to take the owners with us, but most owners probably don’t have the finances to bring a property up to EESSH2. Some things can’t be done without owners’ consent so that will limit what we can do.”
The cost for individual tenements is estimated at between £30-40,000, based on projects by John Gilbert Architects. The average sale price for a socially rented tenement is £50-£60,000.
The report found the biggest saving would be made by removing electric boilers and switching to air source heat pumps, which has the potential to cut annual bills be around £900 while Solar panels could reduce fuel costs by £406.
Insulation measures were seen as a particular challenge for older buildings.
One housing association said: “We want to do fabric first, but it’s hard. Internal wall insulation is so disruptive to tenants. And there are legal issues as to what we can and can’t do.”
Grant funding for full building refurbishments was suggested as an ideal solution with the tenement repair grants in the 1970s and 80s were cited as an example,
The average cost per property requiring measures to reach or work towards the Energy Efficiency Standard for Social Housing Two (EESSH2) is £7,661.
More than half 51% (28 of 55) of respondents said work had not yet got underway to meet the new target and most said Covid had delayed progress.
The SFHA is calling on the Scottish Government to carry out an urgent and comprehensive review of the target in light of the research.
Sally Thomas, SFHA Chief Executive, said: “The social housing sector has the most energy efficient homes in Scotland, and the Scottish Government’s energy efficiency standards have helped to drive this.
“However, it’s clear from our research that considerable challenges stand in the way of our members meeting the EESSH2 target such as funding, measurement methods and timescales.
A spokesman for the Scottish Government said: “The second milestone of Energy Efficiency Standard for Social Housing (EESSH2) will help remove poor energy efficiency as a driver for fuel poverty and contribute to achieving our emissions reductions targets.
“We recognise the challenges associated with improving energy efficiency and decarbonising heat in buildings such as tenements where building owners have to act collectively, or in historic buildings.
“We will work with representatives and experts of these types of buildings to gather evidence on the types of interventions that will best support owners of such buildings.”
It comes amid warnings thousands of rural homeowners could be left behind because they are unable to afford environmentally friendlier heating systems.
The government aims to convert 167,000 homes off the gas grid to zero or low emissions heating systems, focusing primarily on heat pumps. Many are reliant on high carbon coal and oil.
Heat pumps for off-grid homes could result in homeowners facing costs of up to £18,000.
Research carried out by Opinium on behalf of Liquid Gas UK has shown that a third of Scottish rural households cannot afford to pay anything towards the cost.