One area in which we have specialised in recent years is in helping our residents gain financial advantage from implementing eco measures into their homes. We were extremely pleased to find that our partnership work had reached the ears of overseas experts.
Earlier this month Rex Burkholder, a city councillor in Oregon, in the north west of the United States, travelled to Summerfield in north Birmingham, the city’s first eco village, where we have worked with residents, Birmingham City Council, Urban Living and Be Birmingham to reduce fuel poverty for people on low incomes.
American Councillor Burkholder is given a tour of Summerfield eco neighbourhood
Mr Burkholder is carrying out research for the German Marshall Fund (GMF) to understand climate change policies that have worked across Europe and what motivates decision-makers to put successful policies in place.
Between 2005 and 2008 our partnership invested £2.3m into Summerfield to make homes more energy-efficient and inform local people, including school children, how to use less energy. In addition to de-converting six large Victorian properties into eco homes, solar panels, super insulation, energy-efficient heating and lighting were fitted free of charge to 329 owner-occupier homes.
We also converted part of the local church hall into an eco-office that is used by the local community, to show people how energy-saving methods, such as the use of sunpipes, can be used to good effect.
Mr Burkholder was given a tour of the neighbourhood and spoke with staff and residents. Commenting on his fact-finding mission, he said: “The situation in Summerfield is completely different to that of estates in the US, where homes are more modern and largely built out of wood. The Victorian homes here are beautiful, but I understand the challenges that this poses for people who are looking to make homes more environmentally efficient.
“For me, the success of this story is that Family Housing was able to talk with residents to discuss how to improve their liveability and make their lives more sustainable and this was then turned into action.
“The learning point that I’ll take back to the States is how partnership working is the key to success. In America there is very little partnership working between the private, public and not-for-profit sectors. What the Summerfield example gives me is a model to help people who want to accomplish wholescale changes.”