The next decade of social housing and the rise of tenant consumerism.
On 8 – 9 July 2010, delegates were welcomed to the second annual Capita Housing Conference by Roger Birkinshaw, director of housing at Capita Software Services.
The event has grown significantly since 2009 and key individuals from across the sector – from local authorities and housing associations to charities and software providers – focused heavily on the challenges ahead and attempted to provide long-term solutions to benefit citizens and their communities.
Welcoming all delegates, Roger reminded everyone of the tough decisions ahead especially in regard to funding and cutbacks in the housing sector. He went on to say that since the prefab days of the 1950s, housing provision has certainly improved but that the power of communities has been eroded. He also said that: “We all have a responsibility to realise the potential of the housing market and we believe software is one of those ways.
The mediator and one of the speakers for the day was Wayne Hemingway, chairman of Building for Life and co-founder of the Red or Dead fashion label. Wayne told delegates that these are exciting times for the sector with changes in population and living trends and that we should be looking at refurbishing options rather than demolishing and rebuilding. He underlined the importance of considering the ‘livability’ of places and how housing developments should focus on being “citizen-centric” creating social sustainability and this requires economic stability.
Gill Leng, director at GLSH Limited, supported this view by noting how the housing sector is today involved in much more that bricks and mortar; it’s about making a difference to people’s lives.
Domini Gunn, lead housing inspector, The Audit Commission, spoke on the topic of profiling social housing tenants because there is a different type of claimant coming through the system, presenting different aspirations in regard to housing; adding there exists a real opportunity for a good IT solution to map this with customers. The majority of speakers at the event agreed that technology could help organisations make sensible cuts and meet the growing demands for housing services. Domini also touched on the topic of listening to tenants. She suggested that comments and complaints should be encouraged because this shows that tenants are confident enough to challenge the service, and the sector should use this to drive improvements.
|John Puzey, director, Shelter Cymru, during a panel debate chaired by Martin Hilditch of Inside Housing, expressed how a new approach to homelessness is required and that even in difficult times, this could be realised. On behalf of Shelter Cymru, John also accepted a donation from Capita Software Services for £1,000.
During the conference, Nick Hewer, Lord Alan Sugar’s right hand man on The Apprentice gave a behind the scenes, and often jovial, view of the popular television series. As a patron of Hope and Homes for Children, he discussed his work with the charity and the importance of working with communities and governments to build secure environments for vulnerable children around the world.
Other speakers also contributed valuable opinions throughout the day including Rachael Byrne of Home Group, Michelle Read of the Tenant Participation Advisory Service and David Bishop from Microsoft.
As highlighted, the next decade of social housing and the rise of tenant consumerism were obvious threads throughout the two days with constructive and innovative solutions being offered.