Orchard’s Income Analytics solution has been developed to support organisations with the growing pressure to decrease rent arrears and increase revenues against a transformational backdrop of universal credit, rent reductions and legacy systems.
While universal credit provides an opportunity for tenants with the change of responsibility of rental payments, this also provides a significant challenge for housing providers due to the potential shortfall in revenues. The previous mechanism of automated rent payments, through the form of housing benefit, meant social landlords were guaranteed to receive a certain level of income. With the move to universal credit, organisations are now faced with no guarantee that they will receive their entitled rental income and therefore face a loss of revenue.
The impact of universal credit on housing providers is being compounded further due to the previous establishment of the one per cent rent reduction policy for social housing rents under the Welfare Reform & Work Act 2016 and amendment regulations. With this act requiring the reductions to continue for a further two years, not only are social landlords faced with the challenge of decreasing overall value of potential rental income, but also much of what was guaranteed will no longer be.
The combination of these challenges and general pressures to streamline business processes to increase revenues, makes for a very challenging situation and further exaggerates the need to make sure that levels of arrears are reduced or at least maintained in order to maximise the available revenues.
Based on these challenges and its knowledge of the housing market, Orchard knew that it needed to provide customers with a solution that would address this. Orchard Income Analytics is the pioneer solution for a new analytics platform, which is cloud-based, predictive, user-experience centric and integrates with existing housing management systems. It delivers a solution, incorporating data about universal credit, to help with identifying at-risk accounts and to promote effective arrears management.
With tenants now responsible for paying their own rent, areas with full-service universal credit have experienced an increase in rent arrears. According to a recent survey of 118 housing providers across the UK, at least £24 million of rent is now in arrears. The findings were released by the National Housing Federation, the Scottish Federation of Housing Associations, Community Housing Cymru and the Northern Irish Federation of Housing Associations.
Focus on what matters most
Social housing providers are always looking to create smarter ways to work so that staff aren’t stretched and have a way to easily make sense of relevant data to make informed decisions. Many organisations highlighted to Orchard the importance of data, intelligence, prediction and reporting in their ability to analyse rent arrears, particularly in the case of income and arrears. Orchard Income Analytics predicts and then removes technical arrears from case lists, enabling housing providers to target resources on accounts in arrears that need attention. Income Analytics is designed with the user in mind; the mobile-first, responsive web UI is intuitive, and enables email and text as you go.
Income Analytics is a true cloud-based, mobile-first solution, allowing staff to access all of the information they need on the go, at no additional cost. With Orchard’s ‘on the go’ mobile reminders to tenants by text and email, Income Analytics helps make income recovery more cost-effective. More importantly, Income Analytics is fast and easy to deploy and requires minimal training.
With a number of customers actively using Income Analytics to gain real-time benefits, Orchard sees this becoming a major focus for housing associations in the near future. Poplar Harca chose to replace a competitor’s arrears solution with Orchard Income Analytics.
Dawn Box, head of housing services, Poplar Harca, said, “Poplar Harca is pleased to be using Orchard Income Analytics to help reduce rent arrears. Its powerful filtering and data displays will allow us to prioritise cases, make quicker decisions and focus more on those tenants that need our help.”
Orchard also reported that it is working in partnership with Newcastle University in order to incorporate advanced techniques such as machine learning into Income Analytics, with the aim of enabling housing providers’ income teams to predict and proactively manage arrears.