social housing data challenges
10 Oct '20

Social Housing – Blog 2

Following on from our first Blog (here) we are continuing to look at some of the current and upcoming challenges within the Social Housing sector. In our final Blog in the series we will then be looking at how Housing Associations can leverage the Power of Data in order to respond to these
challenges.


A key challenge for housing associations is to ensure that they are accurately capturing resident feedback into the current and upcoming issues faced by those that currently live in the properties.


Since the Grenfell disaster, Residential Councils have grown in number and strength and the expectation is that feedback from these groups must be considered and acted upon. Housing Associations need to ensure that this feedback data (both individual and collective), is captured like
any other data and managed so that it is included in future assessments and planning. In addition, housing associations should also need to consider their reporting framework to auditors, government agencies, residents as well as to other interested parties. As well as relying on effective
data quality and completeness, the reporting framework should also consider how to best illustrate the information in a simple and effective manner that is understood by all.

By simplifying complex data within a business-friendly format, organisations will be better able to engage all parties, provide
real insight and demonstrate they are taking action where it is appropriate to do so. An additional challenge for the social housing sector is the significant and ongoing economic shock caused by the recent COVID-19 induced lockdowns. Whilst it is too early to forecast exactly what this
means to housing demand, it is likely that we will see increased dislocation caused by a loss or reduction of income for many households, adversely impacting their ability to pay to stay within private sector housing.

The UK government has attempted to minimise the impact of this through
various short-term initiatives, however once these temporary support mechanisms are lifted it is likely that the volume of social housing demand will inherently increase. As well as the indirect impact via the (current) private sector, we also should consider the impact of
the economic downturn of the payment of rent of existing tenants within the social housing sector. Management of rent and any associated arrears reporting is a key consideration within the social housing sector.

Ensuring that organisations have rapid access to up-to-date and accurate rent returns is important for social housing providers, enabling them to supply the necessary assistance to impacted households as well as supporting their cashflow management and financial provisioning.
In order to assist, OSCRE have provided a data model use case aimed specifically at this scenario as part of the OSCRE Industry Data Model (IDM).

OSCRE is a corporate member-based organisation that supports the development and implementation of real estate data standards and effective data governance practices using the IDM. In addition, we should also consider the impact of COVID-19 on Housing Association maintenance requirements. During periods of lockdown, there has been evidence of increased repair needs due to increased wear and tear as residents spend much more time in the properties. This backlog will need to be managed with particular regard to some of the enhanced data collection and management techniques highlighted above in order to effectively manage and plan these activities.

Housing Associations may also need to consider social housing obligations as outlined in the relevant s106 planning agreement and also how these may be monitored (and potentially amended) over time. The sufficient provisioning of social housing in line with these agreements will need to be
monitored and tracked to ensure compliance. In addition, it is possible that the s106 may need to be amended based on environmental or other relevant factors (such as health concerns in a COVID-19 environment) that may have changed since the original s106 was produced.

Both housing associations and developers will need to ensure that the data to enable this tracking is sufficiently available and governed as part of their overall data strategy. Given ambitious government targets for the sector, housing associations will typically take charge of a number of new and existing buildings over a typical calendar year.

In order to make sure that this handover from the developer is properly documented and managed, organisations should consider the data impacts of this as part of a wider data strategy, especially considering the sheer amount of data involved in each handover. In order to assist with this, OSCRE has produced a data use case that allows the key aspects of the developer handover process to be documented in a consistent model so that all of the key aspects are properly captured.


In addition to the above challenges we also need to consider the continued focus to make sure that properties are as energy efficient as possible. The importance of this issue was raised again by the UK government with the launch of a £50m pilot on the decarbonisation of social housing, announced
in the July 2020 statement by the Chancellor of the Exchequer.

This should be viewed together with the £3.8bn Social Housing decarbonisation fund, as highlighted in the Conservative manifesto. These
and other related initiatives will require continued focus on the specification of current dwellings in order to make informed decisions on when to upgrade certain aspects of the building such as insulation, HVAC systems and renewable energy solutions.

This places significant additional data demands on housing associations in order to understand both the current state of their housing’s efficiencies and how this evolves over time. This will require extensive recording of asset inventory (as incorporated in the Asset List that we discussed in our first White Paper (see link here)) and an effective update process and technology solution to be implemented simultaneously.


Next week, our third and final blog in the series will explore some of the latest data tools and techniques available to tackle and optimise the current landscape.

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