What will housing providers’ repairs service look like in the future? This article (the second of two; see September 2015 edition of Housing Technology for the first article) from Chris Potter, ROCC’s Uniclass director, is his personal view of some very probable scenarios and others a little bit more fanciful, looking at what a 22nd-century repairs service would look like and covering different aspects such as housing stock, transportation and scheduling. In this article, he looks at the housing environment.
Social housing is already becoming part-state/part-private. Free housing is unlikely to last long into the future, in much the same way as free education hasn’t and more part-funded properties will appear. This will make residents more discerning and have more ownership, not just of the house but of the repairs to the property itself.
It has been clear for some time that housing supply is not keeping up with demand. The reasons for rising demand include improved life-expectancy rates and a growing number of one-person households and, to a lesser extent, increased net immigration.
There are almost 1.8 million households on English local authority housing registers and significant levels of overcrowding in the private and social housing stock. Poor housing has long been proved to impact directly on residents’ health and educational attainment, while difficulties in accessing affordable housing can also limit the ability of people to move to find work. The need to increase the supply of housing and tackle affordability issues is a key housing policy issue. Yet despite the critical social and economic role that housing plays, it has tended not to have the same political profile as other areas such as health and education.
Recent government frustration with housing associations and the new opposition agenda may well be changing this as we speak; housing is sure to be an increasingly prominent battle-ground.
Home ownership in the future will be the preserve of the rich; most people, as in many European countries, will rent as the norm. A quick browse of the RightMove website shows parking spaces for sale in London for £65,000; people will soon be priced out of city living without intervention by the government.
This will generate massive competition in the social housing sector. In much the same way as flat sharing in the private sector happens, this will be duplicated in the social sector, with many families and extended families sharing single multi-purpose housing units.
The resultant pressure on the availability of social housing is likely to result in the development of more single person, utilitarian dwellings like housing pods (below) or more innovative ideas such as houses made from shipping containers or the new Airstream mobile home communities springing up in aluminium caravans.
The UK has an ageing population, with lower birth rates and people living longer. It is projected that the proportion of people in England in the 65+ bracket will be 10.6 million or almost 20 per cent of the population by 2021; an increase of approximately 13 per cent since 2005. This, coupled with the trend that as people grow older their housing needs change (with older people spending 70-90 per cent of their time in their home), increases the need to supply a warm and secure environment which is properly maintained.
As the pressure increases for the ageing population to remain in their own homes and receive any social care in-situ, this also opens up a whole new set of adaptations which must be put in place and serviced.
To provide solutions to the ageing population’s requirements, schemes such as ‘co-housing’ and ‘homeshare’ are starting to gain popularity. Co-housing has the concept of specific communities created and run by their residents. It consists of private dwellings with shared facilities, such as communal washing areas, and the residents offering mutual support to each other. Homeshare balances elderly and less-able people with younger people and students who are willing to offer them living assistance in exchange for cheaper accommodation, co-habiting in the older person’s home.
The emphasis on reducing void times to a few days will become a key factor in increasing occupancy yields from existing housing stock. Once refurbished, the re-letting process will be sleek and achieved in a few hours.
In the next article, we will look at the repairs operative of the future.
Chris Potter is the Uniclass director for ROCC.