Social landlords should expect to put a lot of time and resources into bringing tenants and owners with them on the retrofit journey, if and when funding allows works to progress at scale, according to a new report from the Glasgow and West of Scotland Forum of Housing Associations.

The report looks at members’ reflections on a range of retrofit challenges, with putting people first being a consistent factor in case study examples of recent retrofit projects.

As one association is cited as saying, “it’s like community development work – no shortcuts – you need to put the time and resource into it”.

GWSF said a key issue is that the immediate benefits of energy efficiency work are not always evident to residents, unlike with other housing investment programmes.

As another member association noted, “a lot of these measures – sealing windows, for example – aren’t tangible, aesthetic improvements like a new kitchen or bathroom, so tenants may not think it’s worth it”.

According to the report, ongoing liaison with tenants and owners when the work is actually being carried out was a critical success factor in all the case studies highlighted. This always involved staff from the association, and often the contractor’s staff too, and was especially essential where work was being done with tenants in situ: GWSF believes this will almost always need to be the case in the future as large-scale decanting will be impossible.

The report also reiterates the key messages from GWSF’s response to the recent Scottish Government consultation on a proposed Social Housing Net Zero Standard (SHNZS).

GWSF policy and research lead Colleen Rowan pointed to the overwhelming sentiment among Forum members: “Members currently lack confidence in the Scottish Government’s overall approach, and especially in its reluctance to engage in an honest dialogue about how unrealistic and unachievable many aspects of the SHNZS are for the sector.

“The sense of uncertainty about key issues such as funding and new technology is also clear to see among our members. They remain keen to lead by example, but the implementation of the new standard will be at the mercy of many moving parts that are still evolving or unresolved. There’ll be no rushing into large-scale retrofit work in the foreseeable future.”

Housing expert Dr Kim McKee from the University of Stirling shared her reflections on the report: “The housing sector has a critical role to play in the journey towards net zero, with retrofitting being a key tool to deliver these commitments given the age and profile of Scotland’s housing stock. This report from GWSF showcases the innovation emerging from within Scotland’s community-based housing association sector. It demonstrates the skills and experience they have in working with local people to deliver warm, affordable, high-quality homes.

“But the report also makes clear that targeted grant subsidy needs to match the scale of policy ambitions around retrofit, especially given the other demands on social landlord’s budgets. CBHAs need government support to ensure a just transition for tenants in the communities that they serve.”