HQN Blog: All leave cancelled

How times change. Many years ago, no one would eat our beef due to mad cow disease. Cometh the hour, cometh the man: John Gummer, our minister for farming, stepped up. 

What did he do? John held a photo call where he fed his young daughter a beef burger to show it was safe. 

By all accounts his girl turned out fine. But what’s John up to now?

Well, irony of ironies, he’s just put out a report telling us to eat a lot less meat! Wow, I didn’t see that one coming. Yes, John is now chair of the Committee on Climate Change (CCC) that’s calling for a target of net-zero greenhouse gas emissions in the UK by 2050. 

And he goes for it with a zeal akin to that of an ex-smoker. We get the message loud and clear that it’s time to cut back on the bacon butties to save the planet - but what must we do in housing?

Well, we will need to rip out gas heating in all our homes and put in things like heat pumps or hydrogen boilers. When do we need to do this? He wants us to make a good start before 2030. What will it cost? The annual costs could come to £15 billion for all homes across the UK. 

That’s a steep bill. The report suggests that government will have to help out. But I’m sure that each landlord will have to sign a big cheque (or whatever we use by then) to pay their share of it. You could find that the regulator is keeping a beady eye on how fast you are going. 

What about the heating bills for our tenants? The report tells all of us to turn down the thermostat. And in fairness they do call for better insulation to cut costs. The CCC predicts that the costs of new types of heating will fall over time. We’ll see. But who will pay the upfront costs of putting it in? Could this push resources away from building new homes?  

And how will you be getting about to do your job? It certainly won’t be in petrol or diesel cars. So, what will it cost to switch to electric cars? Will you get any help with this? Mind you, the way we are going with building new power stations you do wonder where all this electricity is coming from. Maybe it’s time to get the bike out the shed!

As an employer I can see a plus side to all of this. The CCC says it’s time to cut back on flights. Good. That means I might get a bit of work from my lot without them constantly jetting off on holidays. But seriously, could this make people look again at UK holidays?  Will this give a boost to those Leave-voting coastal towns? Let’s hope that’s the silver lining. 

By Alistair McIntosh, HQN Chief Executive.


HQN’s 2019 annual conference is themed around climate change and what it means for housing. We will examine:

  • What the net target zero means for housing
  • What you will actually have to do to modify the homes you own
  • How you should be making sure new homes meet the required standards
  • How you will need to change how you operate, e.g. fleet management
  • The likely costs to your organisation and the impact on the business plan
  • The impact on tenants, including income collection
  • The timetable for moving to net zero emissions

There is a tendency to focus on the downside risks. But the CCC points out that emissions fell 40% from 1990 to 2018 while GDP grew by 70% over the same period. We have an opportunity to lead the world here. Carpe diem is the tone of the CCC report.

Our annual conference is free to members! To book your place, click here