The pressure on social housing stock is relentless, with most housing providers doing what they can to build new properties and make best use of their existing properties to maximise the number of residents they can accommodate, with particularly pressure on those operating in the main cities.
While technology on its own can’t magically create hundreds of new properties, it can be used to help alleviate the problem in different ways. The most obvious way is by using technology to enable housing providers to work more efficiently, such as perhaps replacing expensive paper-based activities with cheaper and more streamlined electronic processes or using mobile working to lower costs and increase productivity, and thereby reduce their operating costs, with some of the savings put towards building programmes.
Another area is housing providers’ financial management. Despite the difficulties of introducing component accounting to meet the recent SORP regulations, the resulting asset registers should make it easier for housing providers to accurately measure and predict the present and future values of their portfolios. Combined with tighter risk management to run as ‘lean’ organisations, housing providers may then find it easier to raise capital for additional housing stock.
Mutual exchanges have increased in popularity since the introduction of the ‘bedroom tax’, with HomeSwapper reporting a 25 per cent increase in the number of tenants swapping homes in the past 12 months. However, many tenants are likely to be unaware of mutual exchanges; by promoting such services to their tenants, housing providers may find that they can increase the number of residents that they can support through having fewer unused bedrooms among their properties.
Many housing providers are well-positioned to turn their existing in-house services into commercial propositions that they can sell to other housing providers and local authorities, such as Gentoo’s StreetWise service for ASB management and North Lincolnshire Homes’ Diamond Net broadband service, in order to create additional revenue streams.
Finally, the latest housing development and project management software can make the actual viability appraisals and building processes faster, more efficient and therefore cheaper.