It may come as a surprise to those who aren’t familiar with the social housing sector, but these organisations throughout the UK have worked around the clock to support their tenants during the pandemic. Many of these are in the front-line services, while a lot have lost jobs and are struggling because of the pandemic. The housing sector’s leaders are a pretty dedicated group of people; their core belief is that a home is a fundamental human need and is as much a moral right as education or healthcare.
The CEO of a modern housing provider now has a much wider remit than simply being a landlord. Currently, almost four million households live in social housing, which house approximately nine million people in England. This is just under 20 per cent of all households, with waiting lists growing all the time.
Council housing vs. housing associations
The social housing sector is a diverse part of the housing market with many providers. These comprise a mixture of local authorities and housing association landlords.
Since the 1980s, the provision of social housing has largely shifted from local authorities to housing associations who also take over responsibility for building new homes. It’s no secret that the shortage of good quality and affordable homes is a key political issue. Lack of availability has led to huge increases in house prices and rents in the private sector, while the effects of the pandemic, through job losses in the main, has led to repossessions, evictions and newly-homeless people.
Looking after customers
Throughout the pandemic, housing providers made sure that they were able to support their customers. They looked after their own staff first, supplying them with the technology they needed in order to keep tenants safe and secure in their homes.
The core idea of social housing is that it should be more affordable than private renting and offer long-term and secure tenancies. Social renters benefit from better quality homes, better rights and more control over their lives. The opportunity to put down roots in a community means that they can be supported in care and education. In fact, most housing providers put their tenants and community at the centre of their activities through local development and tenant services teams. And aside from looking after properties, a housing provider is also obliged to safeguard adults, children and young people in contact with their services from harm, abuse or neglect.
Leadership in housing
Throughout the pandemic, CEOs and senior management in the sector have had to adapt quickly to support their customers. Many of the CEOs I have met work hard to encourage and support community involvement, the wellbeing of their customers and the maintenance of their properties, and in many cases, they go beyond ‘just’ achieving regulatory compliance.
Housing staff, apart from front-line and maintenance teams, are mostly working from home. As a consequence, one of the issues that has arisen is the blurring between work and home.
Many members of housing staff are now facing burnout and working much longer hours. Home for many of them is now the office and traditional ways of working have changed dramatically. The sector has had to consider the best use of different technologies to collaborate between teams and find the best ways of supporting them remotely.
It’s clear that wellbeing among housing providers’ teams lies at the heart of delivering to customers and is vitally important, and we’ve heard via our dedicated wellbeing channel (jobs.housing-technology.com/wellbeing) about some of the great work that housing providers are doing to keep morale high.
It’s all about digital
One of the biggest challenges for housing providers is managing the plethora of data. In order for security to be effective, it needs to continue to evolve. As threats occur, it’s vital that the technology designed to keep data safe is up to the job. Housing providers therefore need to continually adapt and respond to new changes and focus on investing in platforms to keep their data and businesses safe.
During the current crisis, data has been a critical issue, especially with teams working from home. Many organisations have had to update and expand their security measures. As organisational systems have become increasingly dependent on technology, they are also more vulnerable to cyber-crime. Many major IT projects have been put on the back-burner as new workloads occurred which could increase cyber-risk.
Housing can be a challenging sector to work in, but it can also be very rewarding for anyone who views work as an opportunity to make a difference. Here at Housing Technology, we’re trying to play our part in supporting these dedicated workers to ensure that they have impartial, reliable and up-to-date information on the technologies which help them to do their jobs better for the benefit of their tenants.
George Grant is the CEO and co-founder of Housing Technology.