A New Deal for Housing… what’s the role for Digital?

It’s over two years since the devastating fire which ripped through the Grenfell Tower block in West London and left 72 dead and hundreds homeless. Since then there have been several inquiries and policy consultations on how to respond. The response to the Government’s Green Paper – A New Deal for Housing – is expected soon… for those of you who missed it the first time around here are the five principles that will underpin a new, fairer deal for social housing residents:

  1. a safe and decent home which is fundamental to a sense of security and our ability to get on in life;
  2. improving and speeding up how complaints are resolved;
  3. empowering residents and ensuring their voices are heard so that landlords are held to account;
  4. tackling stigma and celebrating thriving communities, challenging the stereotypes that exist about residents and their communities; and,
  5. building the social homes that we need and ensuring that those homes can act as a springboard to home-ownership.

So, what will that mean for those of us in the ICT, Digital and Data Department? Have you started talking with your business colleagues on what changes to systems and data may be required to enable any changes?

I’ve no idea how policymakers will influence sector leaders but there are three areas that strike me as opportunities to forward the digital inclusion of our customers, residents, and tenants… and I sum this up in just one word – empowerment!

Empowerment is a word the enters the discourse of just about every social change agenda from equality to having a decent place to live. It’s also a word which underpins our technological drive; part of the philosophy of the World Wide Web and through social media the opportunity for millions to influence decision-makers bypassing conventional structures. Empowerment = Digital = Empowerment!

Data Analytics

“For residents to be empowered they need good information on how their landlord is performing compared to others.” So says the opening words of the green paper chapter on the subject, so it might be reasonable to assume that there’s a change a-coming in the way the key performance indicators are collected and reported; perhaps even just one agreed measure in the sector on measuring satisfaction. Will we get the simple and effective Amazon star system?

The green paper also proposes that landlords should be obliged to publish key performance indicators (KPIs) covering five suggested areas: repairs, safety, complaints handling, resident engagement, and neighbourhood management, including dealing with anti-social behaviour.

So, I expect Business Intelligence and Customer Service teams to be busy refining their data to ensure it can easily be reported back to the regulator. The Regulator already has a model for collection through the Global Accounts returns – will this be the model for performance information, and how much will be asked for? And how frequently?

Data Sharing

There’s a big opportunity to have too! What if we could find a way to share key information about all social housing assets and allow providers to develop technological solutions that can be accessed by both customers and staff in the sector?

Have you heard of FinTech? FinTech is the new applications, processes, products, or business models in the financial services industry, composed of one or more complementary financial services and provided as an end-to-end process via the Internet. It’s the thinking behind new products and services such as PayPal, Monzo and comparison websites which have revolutionised the way we think of money.

So, what if….

What if your data on decent homes, gas safety certificates, and the asbestos register was available through one sector customer portal?

What if every repair logged against a property was available for suppliers to compare with each other?

What if the regulator could look directly into your asset management system?

All of this is possible with a bit of collaboration and entrepreneurship and I expect it to be available in the future. But it would be disruptive and I expect we would see some resistance to this level of transparency. As I say, what if?

Side note: HACT are already doing some fantastic work on aligned data standards in the sector – to read the standard or to register your interest please see https://hact.org.uk/DataStandard

Innovation

A New Deal for Housing sounds quite exciting, doesn’t it! It feels like something we can all get behind and an opportunity for innovation and improvement. Improvement is making things work better, innovation is about doing things differently! So, what would you suggest? How can digital technology meet the principles of a New Deal for Housing?

Some ideas from us:

A minimum standard for social housing websites – what information much be displayed as a minimum and how frequently it should be updated.

A lobbying/petition app similar to the change.org or petition parliament so that a resident can get support from the local community and if must be formally considered by HA

With more teams creating video content for their website, what about the next step: HATV – board meetings televised or on a webinar – open up the decision making in the sector

If you want help empowering your residents through digital transformation the please contact me at steve@goldenmarzipan.co.uk

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