What Happens If NIMBY Takes Aim At Net Zero?

external view of mixed income housing development built at the turn of the century
This 'mixed income' housing development was built in the early 2000's. Could meeting net zero goals be its undoing?

Net Zero1, Social Housing and NIMBY: what lies at the intersection of these murky futures? Well, given the current fad for ‘mixed income’ housing, we might well expect that, in a number of countries, across the hall from a public/social housing family is a more middling-class family of private owners or renters.

Difficult to imagine a productive Not-In-My-Back-Yard across-the-hall hatred between the beneficiaries of a supposedly superior multi-class community that exists within the same walls, but . . .

Suppose, the government has, as a price for its financial support, demanded that Net Zero be achieved by social housing council owners/non-profits/etc. within a stringent time frame. Soon-ish. So far so good, unless . . .

The government has different expectations for homeowners and private landlords when it comes to getting with the Net Zero program. Perhaps it is encouraging rather than requiring compliance, or prescribing compliance on a different timeline than the one for social housing tenants. Uh oh . . .

Every tenant, regardless of social status or income, can have their own version of a net zero cooker. But Net Zero building air circulation? Net Zero building cladding? Achieving these things requires mutual respect and cooperation. Will they be forthcoming?

These and other social housing issues, which will be faced in the future, are raised in a useful article from Scotland in Lexology. It covers such things as:

  1. Uncertainty surrounding performance of heat pumps and electric heating technology
  2. Social housing within mixed tenure block
  3. Cost of zero emission heating systems and other changes

Read more in Lexology: Net Zero: Challenges for the social housing sector. (You’ll have only one free read before being asked to register, so make it a productive one!)

For two initiatives in Scotland that are directly working at this intersection, try: You Can’t Get There From Here – Learning From The UK’S Retrofit Journey and Energy Retrofits in Older Homes: A Case Study


  1. See the United Nations Net Zero Coalition for more on this term: Climate Action