Managing Spend to Make a Difference

Challenges for the Housing Sector

7th September 2017

While the core challenge for the Housing Sector remains providing affordable housing, many housing organisations are undergoing radical organisational transformation. This is the result of increased portfolio diversity, which could include new rental properties, partially owned properties, sales and new builds.

Housing providers are being forced to consider their responsibilities cautiously during the ongoing shortage of housing as tenants are demanding more from their housing providers in terms of communication and keeping track of interactions with their landlord, however tenant engagement still remains a high priority for providers.

The modern workforce has been a key to driving change within the Housing Sector, however the present employment market is populated with ‘Generation Y’ resources meaning that housing providers must work hard to retain them as a customer.

Finding ways that are effective when using advanced communication technologies will be the main key to success for many housing providers although they are still faced with challenges which are discussed in this blog.

Challenge #1 – Housing Supply

Since the economic crisis, the Housing Sector is currently struggling with rising housing prices and with demand outstripping supply, this is putting a huge amount of pressure on them to provide affordable housing. A few sources have estimated that approximately 500,000 new homes will need to be built every year for the next 25 years, and if the high demand continues, could increase to almost 2 million new homes required by 2026.

The welfare reform agenda has also shown further challenges for housing providers, with figures that identify pilot schemes testing the new direct payment of housing benefits showing a 8% decrease in rent collections on average. In areas where universal credit has been paid directly, other figures show that there is up to 90% arrears on these rent collections.

Challenge #2 – Technology Infrastructure

For many years, housing providers have operated using familiar business processes. Software and business process applications have been developed in-house by an IT expert team and third-party applications have been purchased and adapted to the needs of the housing provider, or bespoke packages have been purchased and evolved with the needs of the expanding organisation.

Greater investment in IT and communication tools is required for housing organisations to achieve their core business goals of better communicating with tenants, improving levels of satisfaction and realising cost efficiencies as well as ensuring seamless working across asset management, workforce management, CRM and repairs. Housing providers will need to provide evidence that they are achieving value for money from their IT strategies they use as defined by the HCA’s VfM standard.

Challenge #3 – Changing Working Practices and Mobility

One of the greatest revolutions in today’s workplace is the increasing trend of working flexibly. The way in which staff work has changed immeasurably over the past 10 years. Recent government data suggests that there were approximately 4.2 million home workers in the UK during 2014, equating to 13.9% of the total working population, whereas 73.4% were occupied in higher skilled roles. Employees expect the same ease of access to systems and a collaborative working environment in the same manner as they would get with a traditional office-based role, however most traditional communication techniques are largely insufficient in providing this.

Many housing providers are witnessing an increasing uptake among employees in ‘Bring Your Own Device’ (BYOD), meaning that when combined with an increasingly mobile and geographically dispersed workforce, this has its own challenges. Alternatively, the adoption of BYOD can deliver great organisational benefits such as empowering staff with mobility tools that accelerate service delivery, a reduction in IT costs and the opportunity for employees to work from a location of their choice, out of the workplace, without affecting productivity.

Challenge #4 – Digital Inclusion and Omnichannel Service Delivery

There is now a much stronger push towards the duty of care amongst housing firms and tenants. Digital inclusion must be part of the wider business strategy where core operational systems are fully integrated with online services as this enables faster access to the information allowing quicker resolution times.

The advent of digital inclusion signals a major disruption within the Housing Sector. It is partially being driven by the Public Services Social Value Act 2012 as all public bodies in England and Wales are now required to consider how the services they commission and procure may improve the social, economic and environmental well-being of the area.

The implementation of digital inclusion is considered crucial to building a successful neighbourhood. A further driver is the widespread use of smartphones and how it has affected demands from tenants. Smartphones allow tenants to swiftly contact their housing providers regardless of location and time through email, social media and online chat applications.

Housing providers are starting to appreciate that delivering services through a wider range of channels allows them the opportunity to deliver enhanced services to their tenants. This is leading to the realisation that implementing an omnichannel communications strategy could reduce the cost of call centres as a result of people being able to use other channels such as email and web chat. However, some sources believe that using multiple channels doesn’t go far enough and that a true omnichannel approach needs to be achieved. One of many benefits of this is that tenants will never need to repeat themselves to their housing provider, regardless of the communication method they use, and call centres have access to full visibility of a tenant’s interactions with their provider.

Understanding these key challenges has helped us to step towards the transformational change required in order to benefit the Housing Sector. We don’t claim to have all the answers but we certainly can make a difference.

Contact us if you would like further information on how we are striving to support the Housing Sector through Spend Management, helping your organisation to deliver efficiencies, drive visibility and enable control. All these cost savings that can be achieved through better managing your spend can then be invested into front-line services where there is a need for funding and support.

Alternatively, you can download our Buyer Solutions Handbook below to find out the solutions we offer to meet your strategic goals.

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