21st June 2023
Raising the roof: the hot housing topics to watch
With Housing 2023 around the corner, Civica’s Mark Holdsworth predicts the three big themes set to take centre stage
There’s no doubt that there will be lots to talk about at the up-coming Housing event in Manchester. Within the context of stubbornly high inflation and rising interest rates, and the growing demand for safe and affordable social housing, we need to have these vital conversations and share best practice to achieve as a sector for our communities.
While there’s a packed agenda this year, covering everything from sustainability and carbon free places to fuel poverty and homelessness issues, three main themes have caught my eye
Getting smart on damp and mould
We’ve all seen the terrible news stories around residents suffering damp and mould in their homes, and renewed scrutiny of housing providers from the Ombudsman. However, of all the challenges presented to the social housing sector over the last decade, this is the one where technology could solve the problem.
Damp and mould can be caused by several factors including age and design of building, standard of repairs or residents being unaware of the best way to prevent it. Damp is a very technical issue, one which housing officers may not know the exact cause of straight away: as a former Housing Officer myself, it was difficult to work out exactly what the issue was. But with the growth in smart home technology, we can now take proactive and preventative measure to stop the problem before it starts. Tech like images and AI and smart sensors which can help detect damp and mould by taking temperature and humidity readings; they then create automated alerts to help housing providers have a fuller view across their entire housing stock – and take interventions which will make the most difference.
This is also tied into the green agenda: we’ll find out more about what’s being done to ensure well-ventilated buildings with healthy indoor air that also reduce carbon emissions – so ensuring resident health and wellbeing sits alongside our low carbon future too.
Listen with respect
Taking the resident voice into account is another key issue if we’re going to build the homes and services which people really want and need. While resident panels are useful, they are normally just a small sample of an overall resident population. And like anything, there are sections who won’t want to engage because they’re not interested or too busy to make it a priority.
But in the wider world, we’re all used to filling in Trust Pilot reviews or satisfaction surveys: these are very useful for companies and organisations to engage with a much wider audience and get views from harder-to-reach people. This opens new opportunities for housing associations to boost interaction and engagement through multiple different experiences.
For example, when gathering feedback on a proposed new parking scheme on an estate, people can see maps and 3D representations, and take part in online discussions with fellow residents. This will give a more nuanced view. It will also put a fuller resident voice at the heart of that issue; ultimately delivering a scheme which works. Often, communities can feel things are imposed on them without proper consultation; communication is a two-way street and through online portals residents can raise both concerns and highlight opportunities for further improvement.
This all links to the new Tenant Satisfaction Measures launched in April: we’re moving to a more consultative approach and making sure that the resident voice is heard. At Teign Housing for example, they’re looking at the issues which impact their residents and neighbourhoods, and using an online consultation platform to ask people what they really think. They are then reviewing these outcomes at board level and putting the resident voice at the heart of decision making.
Spotlight on Housing standards
A final hot topic is the question around whether The Future Homes Standard is achievable for the social housing sector; aiming to ensure that new homes built from 2025 will produce 75-80% less carbon emissions than homes built under the current Building Regulations. It’s going to be interesting to debate whether the supply chain can adapt in time and also how affordable this is.
Of course, we’re all striving for energy efficient homes without any reliance on fossil fuels. As long as technology exists, we can build new housing with the latest technology to support the net zero agenda. But it’s retrofit which I think will be the big issue: how do we convert existing housing stock and complex buildings with a completely different housing standard in mind? I’m hoping we’ll uncover some of the answers!
So as the days tick down, I’m excited to see what innovation and new thinking will come out to play. This is a passionate sector but under pressure like never before. I’m looking forward to learning more and how we can support the sector with the latest smart cloud technology to provide for residents long into the future.
Mark Holdsworth is Sales Director, Housing at Civica