A housing conference, attended by over 100 social housing providers, hosted by Capita's software services division revealed the key themes that will occupy the social housing sector over the next 12 months.
- the role of social housing providers needs to shift so they become the voice of communities;
- new builds need to move away from boxes with numbers to a home with the scope for personalisation ;
- carefully considered partnerships will enable social housing providers to deliver more services.
The event provided food for thought to a market that is in a state of constant change and is working hard to deliver much needed support to its customers, despite financial strain.
Change can be unsettling, whether that is experimenting with design, using new technology, or delivery different services outlined Wayne Hemingway, chairman of Building for Life. "That said, change in social housing should be seen as a positive thing. The social housing market is plagued by bad practice and getting it wrong. Tenants in the UK are being short changed on space compared to northern European countries, and figures show that 30% of people wouldn't consider buying new housing under any circumstances. Changing from this situation can only be a good thing," commented Wayne Hemingway.
"One way of tackling any shortfalls in this sector is create a true home for tenants and our current social housing stock gives little scope for personalisation. A box with a number won't enable citizens to feel a sense of belonging," Wayne Hemingway added.
Earlier in 2011, the National Housing Federation stated that personalisation will accelerate developments in the sector, giving people more control and choice over their living environment, and this was reflected in many of the sessions held at the conference. This has the potential of driving stronger, more efficient partnerships between local authorities, housing associations, charities, suppliers and the tenants themselves.
"It would seem that housing providers now play multiple roles - the voice of the community and the provider of services. It will be interesting to see how society will react to taking more responsibility going forward," said Elspeth MacKenzie, Chief Executive, Thrive Homes.
Wayne added: "Now is genuinely the time for opportunity. Social housing providers are seen as a beacon for self-build and self-help. They are in a stronger position than national house builders. They own their housing stock and demand is virtually guaranteed."
"We have seen some shocking evidence that our sense of community is in turmoil over the last few months - the nationwide riots being a prime example. It is vital that we look at how partnerships can assist in maintaining the delivery of invaluable services to some of the most vulnerable people in society and will continue to give them their voice," said Roger Birkinshaw, housing director, Capita. "Quite often the simple things can have the greatest impact. Sending a text message instead of a formal letter to a tenant can remove boundaries, or online services can enable a raft of local service providers to share information about tenants and available accommodation getting help to those who need it quickly."