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Social housing providers demand major policy changes

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Civica has today launched The Changing Landscape for Social Housing report, in partnership with the Society of Local Authority Chief Executives & Senior Managers and The Chartered Institute of Housing.

It reveals that 94% of social housing providers want to see the government improve its housing policy as the current policy leaves them and the communities they serve at risk.

Specifically, senior housing decision makers want central housing policy to focus on a broader range of tenures beyond home ownership (65%) and to reduce or scrap the annual 1% rent cut entirely (49%).

The Changing Landscape for Social Housing report was developed in light of the increasing challenge housing organisations face during a period of significant social, financial and service challenges.

Terrie Alafat, chief executive, Chartered Institute of Housing, said: “The current policy and political environment make this a pivotal time for social housing. The government has promised to build more homes of all tenures that everyone can afford and this research very clearly highlights there is a consensus that this is what we need.”

The report was developed using insights from a roundtable discussion between local authority and housing association leaders, and research which questioned another 100 senior housing decision makers from organisations across England.

The report drew attention to the struggles organisations face with current housing policy. It also detailed that in light of these challenges, over the next 12 months social housing providers will be prioritising dealing with changing regulations and reforms (52%), safeguarding jobs (59%), cutting costs and driving efficiencies (57%) and improving customer service and satisfaction (57%). It also highlighted the key factors impacting the social housing landscape, identifies key characteristics of the changing tenant and provides guidance for housing organisations to successfully navigate this myriad of market pressures and thrive.

Technology was widely expected to play an increasingly vital role in achieving these objectives with 50% of social housing providers planning to use digital technology and automation to transform and modernise services and to unlock significant savings. Organisations were prioritising flexible working supported by mobile devices (59%), automated communications & process workflows (57%) and outsourcing aspects of the business to relevant IT experts (48%).

The report also urged social housing leaders to prioritise the use of digital technology and automation alongside traditional channels to go beyond channel shift, and to invest in connected devices and data management to improve tenant engagement, increase efficiencies and extend preventative measures, with support from key partners.

Lindsay Simons, director of corporate services, South Lakes Housing said: “Our strategy is to maximise the delivery of new homes and we need to focus on improving efficiency and reducing costs to achieve that. We’re taking a long-term approach, making significant investments in technology and collaborating creatively with other housing providers in our region to deliver savings through economies of scale. The relaxation of rent controls would be a welcome step towards enabling providers to more effectively manage their businesses and deliver their new homes strategies.”

The report explained that to survive, the social housing industry must drive significant transformation within the next 12-18 months. In order to achieve this, board members and senior leaders will need to improve their risk management (41%) and change management (41%), governance (38%) and strategy and development (37%) skills. It will also be crucial for leaders to develop a culture of change and innovation including a more commercialised focus, and a more flexible workforce who are not only able to cope with these adjustments but also help drive forward progress to create the best possible outcomes for tenants. Many social housing providers are already commercialising their services to create additional revenues.

Paul Bradbury, executive director of business development, Civica, concludes: “The pace of change and expectation is increasing, including rapid advances in technology and the greater availability of data for a 24/7 on-demand public. The ability to confidently navigate this changing landscape and to harness innovation is what will set apart those who thrive. Navigation is made significantly easier with the right skills, strong leadership, supportive partnerships, detailed data and efficient processes.”

The Changing Landscape for Social Housing report outlines three strategies for survival, leadership attributes to ensure success, how technology is driving positive outcomes in the community; as well as seven steps to sustainable success. It is the fifth instalment in Civica’s Changing Landscape report series, all of which can be downloaded at www.civica.co.uk/changinglandscape/downloads.

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