Despite wider economic gloom, our informal and naturally rather subjective view is that the housing sector, and in particular its technology infrastructure, is pretty buoyant. One reason for this is that there is always demand for housing, with this obviously increasing when the economy declines.
At risk of going a little ‘off piste’, a good analogy is particular stock market investments. All stocks, shares and other financial instruments are volatile but some are much less so than others; a good example of this is the pet food market (there are of course others) which has much in common with social housing, believe it or not.
Pet food consumers are typically loyal to one brand (c.f. the relative difficulty of changing housing provider), the cost to the consumer of the products is relatively non-negotiable (housing rents), and the purchase of new products cannot be deferred and needs to be made on a regular basis (again, housing rents and tenancies). These characteristics make for above-average financial stability in terms of cashflows, profits, etc.
The solid ‘fundamentals’ of the social housing sector, to continue the financial analogy, are why it should continue to thrive. At the same time, another interesting development is that while the number of technology projects has remained steady (or even increased a little) over the last few years, the underlying goals have changed.
Many of the projects now support our earlier prediction and advice that housing providers should concentrate on delivering IT as a ‘value-adding utility service’, with housing providers now placing much more emphasis on how their new IT implementations will actually save them money while delivering more – the classic ‘doing more with less’ that we hear so often.