Energy affordability is an increasing challenge for social housing tenants. In recognition of this, many social housing providers (SHPs) across Australia are placing stronger strategic emphasis on improving the energy performance of their stock (Milligan et al., 2015). There are a number of avenues through which SHPs can access assistance from local, state and federal government agencies to support this improvement. Support ranges from provision of information, funding to support implementation of upgrades to existing stock, and grant and low-cost loans to encourage improved energy performance in new constructions.
Despite the presence of both organisational desire and government support, energy efficiency improvements in the social housing sector have to date largely been limited. Activity has been restricted to new constructions, and small proportions of existing stock managed by SHPs with the capacity to deliver complex upgrade programs.
This paper explores the numerous financial, structural and institutional barriers that hinder energy efficiency improvements through 21 interviews with senior management at SHPs across metropolitan and regional NSW. These multilayered barriers are mapped out, and their prevalence among SHPs of different sizes and tiers of registration is explored. Successful strategies that some SHPs have employed to overcome these barriers are discussed. Through the interviews, the sector’s general framing of energy efficiency primarily as an asset management issue is highlighted, contrasting its motivations of improving tenant wellbeing and the liveability of the dwellings.