Student Fellowship

Engaging the Private Rented Sector in Retrofitting

Project Area:

Climate Action


West Yorkshire Combined Authority, England

Reporting to:

Head of Place and Environment

The Challenge

West Yorkshire Mayor Tracy Brabin has pledged to get to Net Zero by 2038. The Combined Authority has begun addressing changes to get to the Net Zero carbon goal across a number of areas such as transport and industry. Decarbonizing domestic heating is a key priority and funding is already supporting social housing retrofitting. The Combined Authority wants to find ways to support retrofitting of all types of housing tenure, including those properties owned by private landlords. The private rented sector in West Yorkshire, now at one million homes, has grown significantly in recent years. And a key priority for tackling the climate and environment emergency is delivering warm, energy efficient, affordable and climate resilient homes. Private tenants who need affordable rents are concentrated in the inner urban areas of the region and, although lower rent accommodation is concentrated in these areas, the supply is in some cases inadequate and in poor condition. With the current energy crisis, fuel poverty, and climate emergency, there is a pressing need to improve the energy efficiency of these homes although, given their quality, they might also be the hardest to retrofit. 

Mayor Brabin has committed to delivering a new Better Homes Hub to bring together housing partners, local authorities, and businesses to champion new ways to deliver warm, affordable, low-carbon and climate resilient homes for all. A previous program, Better Homes Yorkshire (launched in 2015), and government funding has enabled work to begin for social/public housing. According to the Combined Authority’s leadership, additional work is needed on the private rented sector front to better understand how to target, incentivize, and support this sector; the scale and feasibility of the task at hand; and how the approaches taken might vary by property/ownership type (individual private landlord, institutional private landlord with multiple properties, landlords renting to low-income people whose rent is subsidized by the state, etc.). The summer fellow working alongside the Place and Environment policy team will seek to answer the following key questions: 

  • How many private rented sector properties identified are in need of retrofitting? What are the property/housing types? And where are they located? 
  • Is there a particular property type to prioritize for action, for example, those where the tenant is receiving a housing subsidy/benefit?
  • What tools, including incentives, connection to existing funding resources, direct investment, and enforcement are needed to ensure standards in private rented sector stock are raised to a Decent Homes level where possible? What will encourage owners, landlords and residents to act? 
  • What additional data is needed to answer the questions above?

What You’ll Do

To address these questions, the fellow will engage with the Combined Authority’s Environmental Policy and Housing teams, conduct data analysis of existing local and national data, interview experts and private landlords, and conduct research on approaches taken by other regions, including any lessons for potential segmentation by property type, age, location, etc. Based on these findings, they may help design a pilot to test approaches for incentivizing a particular landlord type to retrofit their property. Key deliverables include: 

  1. Report summarizing key findings from data analysis, promising practices research, and interviews and recommendations for engaging the private rented sector in retrofitting and a potential segmentation/prioritization strategy; this could also include stakeholder maps, summary of additional data needs, and potential funding resources. 
  2. Depending on work being undertaken prior to the fellow’s placement, scoping of a pilot area. 
  3. Presentation to Mayor and senior team in the Combined Authority. 

What You’ll Bring

The fellow will be expected to possess the following skills:

  • Data analysis
  • Qualitative interviewing and analysis
  • Human centered design
  • Stakeholder engagement and management

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