Housing Finance Group will aim to secure private finance to retrofit UK housing

The Homes and Communities Agencies' new Housing Finance Group will partially concentrate on sourcing funding mechanisms to retrofit the existing stock, its chief executive, Sir Bob Kerslake, said yesterday morning.

Speaking at an open session of the Chartered Institute of Housing’s (CIH’s) annual conference in Harrogate, Kerslake said he recognised that greening already built homes was of the utmost importance and that he wanted to find a way that private finance could achieve this.

“We don’t yet have a strategy for how to retrofit for environmental sustainability. It will be impossible for this country to deliver the targets on climate change and carbon emissions without tackling the existing stock, but we don’t yet know how to fund it,” Kerslake said.

“One of the things I want this housing and finance group to do is to find out how private finance can play a part in that agenda.” Industry will be keen to see a replacement for the seven-year-old Decent Homes initiative that formally closes next year, although some councils are running up to five years behind schedule.

Nigel Hugill, former Olympic village chief, is to head up the new advisory group charged with finding new mechanisms private finance streams to feed into new and existing stock both private and social through the downturn. Among the exotic sources of income talked about at Harrogate this year were sovereign wealth funds and Islamic financial institutions.

Kerslake revealed that the related call for expressions of interest from private finance to invest in the private rented sector had yielded 60 responses.

In other comments, Kerslake warned against viewing upcoming reforms to the Housing Revenue Account as a cure all.

“Let’s be cautious about seeing the changes around the HRA as a panacea to all housing problems. It could do a very useful job, but simply redistributing money isn’t going to change the basic challenge.”