Community housing leads energy-efficient housing push

The most energy efficient home in your neighbourhood may well be managed by a community housing organisation with the social housing sector leading the push for environmentally-responsible housing, according to the CEO of the Community Housing Industry Association Victoria (CHIA Vic), Lesley Dredge.

Ms Dredge says the sector’s social mission to help low-income renters with energy bills, and its desire to reduce its carbon footprint, has combined to ensure community housing organisations actively seek opportunities to build or retrofit energy-efficient housing.

Ms Dredge was announcing the results of one of these opportunities; a $2.7 million program of energy efficiency and solar upgrades, funded by the Victorian Property Fund (VPF), which has seen more than 1,400 community housing households benefit from the installation of 1,634kW of solar, 26.2kWh of batteries and 116 split system air conditioners, with the emissions savings being the equivalent of taking 385 cars off the road each year.

Renters like Andrew Phillips have been appreciative of the VPF project’s impact. Andrew is the sole community housing resident in a small block of two-bedroom units in Croydon, yet his is the only home sporting solar panels. ‘My owner occupier neighbours are jealous…I noticed a difference in my bills immediately.’

CHIA Vic, in collaboration with BOOMPower, assisted seven community housing organisations to apply for the VPF grant, utilising the BOOM! platform, which helps organisations analyse their energy opportunities and create automated business cases for energy projects. BOOM! assists with competitive procurement all the way through to the measurement and verification of the costs and benefits achieved by the projects.

‘This project has been a great success and provided great learnings for the sector in the leadup to our delivery of $1.38 billion of additional social housing through the Victorian Government’s Big Housing Build project. All of those new homes will be a minimum of 7-star energy efficiency standards,’ Ms Dredge says.

In addition to the Big Housing Build, the Victorian Government has announced a $335 million rebate program to replace old wood, electric or gas fired heaters with new energy-efficient systems, as well as the $112 million announced last week for social housing properties to seal windows and doors, and upgrade heating, cooling and hot water system. The government has also expanded the Solar Homes rebates program.

‘We have no doubt that our members will take advantage of all these opportunities to increase the environmental efficiency of their properties for the benefit of tenants and the environment,’ Ms Dredge says.

‘Community housing organisations provide homes for people on low to moderately low incomes who are disproportionately impacted by rising energy prices. We don’t want our renters to have to choose between keeping the heater on in winter or buying food.’