How can quick wins, not quick fixes, support housing providers’ long-term digital transformation strategies?
The government has announced plans to pass the Social Housing (Regulation) bill by this summer. The intention of the legislation is to reform the housing sector in order to protect tenants’ lives, in part by compelling housing providers to address problems faster.
The Regulator of Social Housing will proactively inspect housing providers and be able to issue emergency repairs and unlimited fines. Other changes include giving tenants greater transparency about their housing provider’s performance by introducing a new set of tenant satisfaction measures (TSMs).
The government has also pledged to amend the Social Housing (Regulation) bill to include ‘Awaab’s law’ to provide more protection to residents in homes affected by damp and mould, with strict new time-limits outlined for housing providers to investigate reported problems.
The risk of rushing into quick fixes
However, the new legislation in combination with longer waiting lists and placement times may cause housing providers to embark on projects which lead to quick fixes but could result in only the superficial issues being treated.
For example, when addressing damp and mould, anti‑mould wall coatings and regular roof and gutter maintenance only go so far, and cavity- or external-wall insulation can increase problems if installed incorrectly.
The additional pressure, along with poor advice and limited access to specialist knowledge, can place housing providers and residents at risk of mould and damp recurring, resulting in additional time and strain on already-squeezed budgets.
Implementing immediate changes for impact
Instead of ‘quick fixes’, housing providers should consider what ‘quick wins’ can be implemented that complement a long-term digital transformation strategy to future-proof properties against continuing legislative and societal changes.
For example, FireAngel’s FA3328: 10 Year Sync-It (NFC technology) carbon monoxide alarm records properties’ environmental metrics, such as temperature and humidity levels, the two principle indicators for damp and mould.
Using the free FireAngel Installer app, Sync-It (NFC technology) provides quick, quiet and contactless data extraction by holding a mobile phone over a FA3328 device to transfer and securely store logged property temperature and humidity recordings. Data can be viewed within the app, shared via email or downloaded as a PDF report for further action.
As a standalone device, this carbon monoxide alarm doesn’t need any IoT infrastructure but still provides the insights housing teams need in order to focus their resources on properties that need them most, measuring the success of these corrective actions long-term.
A smart approach to holistic resident safety
Alongside these quick wins, the IoT can offer an alternative solution to help housing providers to future-proof properties. Carefully-placed IoT sensors in residents’ homes can provide the safe, secure sharing of real-time property insights, allowing a much earlier opportunity to investigate and remedy potential problems.
As the laws on home safety continue to strengthen and the government considers the need for a standalone damp and mould standard for socially-rented homes, data collected from smart sensors may also play a key role in maintaining compliance and identifying future regeneration projects.
When used efficiently, data collected from these sensors allows housing providers to allocate resources more effectively and pinpoint residents who may need further support, providing accurate information about where they might need to adopt different ventilation or heating practices, supporting compliance with the TSMs.
Smart sensors can also provide a clear audit trail, recording accurate and regular environmental readings specific to each property and room. Since the data captured can be analysed remotely, there is less need for intrusive onsite investigations. And after any remedial work has been done, the data can be monitored to ensure the work has had the intended effect.
Maintaining a long-term vision
The IoT also allows housing providers to deploy a host of sensors in properties to create a holistic network of protection, detection and prevention. This includes smoke and carbon monoxide alarms, water-leak detectors or motion sensors, enabling housing providers to create a technological ecosystem in each property that is scalable and expandable in the future to provide increased safety and reassurance.
FireAngel’s Home Environment Gateway delivers a holistic resident safety solution, encompassing fire safety, AI-driven risk stratification and background environmental monitoring with temperature and humidity sensors incorporated. Through additional Zigbee sensors, the solution takes resident safety and wellbeing to previously unachievable levels, enabling housing providers to prioritise condensation, damp and mould interventions and increase fire prevention measures for residents who need it most. The gateway is ceiling mounted and occupies the same footprint of a smoke alarm. It can also be integrated with FireAngel’s Grade D1 alarms, so no additional wiring is required.
Collected data is uploaded to the FireAngel cloud platform Connected, where it can be processed to provide insights on the most vulnerable tenants and properties. While Connected offers substantial insight via its dashboard, it also deploys open-source APIs which allow full integration with housing providers’ existing housing or asset management system. For more information, please visit fireangel.co.uk/connected.
Nick Rutter is the co-founder and chief product officer at FireAngel.