Able-to-pay retrofit research
Bristol City Council commissioned CSE to research the motivations and needs of a Bristol homeowners who applied for the council’s Bright Green Homes scheme grant in March 2021 but were non-eligible due to their income level.
These are households with a gross annual income of more than £30,000 who didn’t qualify for the Bright Green Homes grant which is targeted at low-income households.
The £30,000 threshold is not arbitrary, but is used by many government and private grant schemes in the housing retrofit sector. Households with an income above this level are described as ‘able-to-pay’ (ATP).
However, this cut-off point doesn’t take into account the circumstances and priorities of the household, for example the number of people living in the home, their health needs, the energy efficiency of the property and other financial demands. Many households with an income of just over the £30,000 threshold would not consider themselves well off, or able to afford much in the way of home improvements. This is why understanding this group is important for targeting future retrofit grants.
The research also sought to understand these households’ perspectives on installing home energy efficiency measures, particularly heat pumps and insulation.
An online survey followed by two focus groups yielded practical insights into the needs and preferences of a small group of Bristol residents. The research found that:
- Nearly a fifth of households had made no improvements to their home in the last decade. The same proportion of households had undertaken retrofit work themselves.
- The measures that ATP retrofit customers were most interested to install in the next 12 months were draught proofing, loft insulation and underfloor insulation. Heat pumps and solar PV are considered as potential measures to install within 3-5 years.
- Whole street retrofit was of interest to nearly all survey respondents (65, 96%), with cost reduction and timing being the biggest incentives.
- ATP customers were unwilling to risk using ‘rainy day’ funds for energy efficiency improvements, citing the lack of value put by mortgage lenders on property energy efficiency as a barrier to further investment.
- Only 6% of those surveyed reported having a home retrofit plan done to inform their home improvements.
- There was high interest in all types of retrofit support. A website and one-stop-shop to visit were the most popular options for learning about retrofit from survey results.
An aim of the research was to inform the council’s design of a retrofit scheme to integrate the needs of ATP retrofit customers.
An executive summary of the report is available on the council’s website here.
The full report is available on request from email@example.com with the subject line ‘Able to pay retrofit research’.
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