Housing Associations perform an essential public service. They provide affordable housing to those on lower incomes and support local communities with a variety of social objectives. With a 4% increase in the number of households waiting for a home, housing associations are under pressure to meet public supply and demand, improve tenant experiences and become more cost-efficient.
Technology will play a fundamental role in helping the housing sector achieve these goals. The ‘Digital Shift’ has already seen many Housing Associations change their online operations and automate back-office processes to deliver more streamlined services. However, digital transformation will only continue to advance the sector, with innovative technologies such as IoT ushering in the Smart Social Housing era.
In this blog, we take a 360 view of the challenges, opportunities and benefits of digital transformation for Housing Associations.
What is driving digital adoption in Housing Associations?
Within Housing and the public sector in general, the perception of IT is altering from a functional necessity into an enabler of change. Encouraging digital adoption amongst both employees and tenants requires social housing firms to understand what motivates their users. By taking a strategic approach to IT and aligning objectives with tech procurement, the Housing sector will be able to drive greater value from their IT investments.
So what are some of the key objectives for digital transformation?
A desire to save money, time and resources
Housing Associations do not have money to waste. Every penny saved goes back into supporting the local community and into the development of new affordable homes. Any IT spend must therefore be carefully planned out and deliver Return On Investment (ROI), by making operational processes more efficient, reducing downtime and automating tasks to save time and resource.
Improving connections with tenants
One of the greatest challenges housing associations face is creating services that cater to a diverse audience. Social housing and local authority tenants range from elderly people to entire families and will often include those who are vulnerable or in need of additional care.
Implementing tools that will improve the way Housing Associations connect with their tenants will become essential. From building superior online self-service platforms to using innovative technology to provide residential support and optimise housing management.
Navigating the data minefield
Housing Associations hold huge amounts of information in the form of tenants records, financial and operational data. Whilst many have embraced digitisation as a way of streamlining processes, some still struggle to navigate the data minefield.
Implementing the right IT infrastructure to help manage information will allow the housing sector to organise, analyse, process and share information in a more structured way. This in turn will break down data silos and drive informed decisions and improved outcomes.
Ensuring security and compliance
Housing associations are reliant on public trust therefore security remains a priority. The vast amount of sensitive data along with their connection with other public sector organisations makes them a prime target for malicious actors. As the Housing Sector invests in modernising its infrastructure the need for more advanced security solutions, training and policies will become vital.
How is innovative technology changing the tenant experience?
The tenant is at the heart of everything Housing Associations do. Using technology to make their life easier is key.
How can you do that?
By providing Real-Time Tenant Communications
According to a recent study by Capita One, 30% of tenants in social housing have no internet access. Despite the great lengths that Housing Associations are going to, there is still a lot of work to be done to bridge the digital divide and meet tenant demands.
Many Housing Associations are looking at new communication methods that will allow tenants to receive real-time, personalised support. Self-service platforms can be accessed 24/7, giving users access to account details as well the latest updates about community initiatives.
Digital notice boards are also being used to display important information such as lift breakdowns and public health updates in communal areas. As many of us are still working from home, remote management has been integral. With the use of online platforms housing managers have been able to stay in contact with residents regardless of location.
By using IoT for Housing Asset Management & Maintenance
The Internet of Things has given us the power to connect technology and use the data it gathers to track, count and draw actionable insights like never before. In the manufacturing industry, it is being used on product lines to reduce waste, cut costs and notify about faulty machinery. In the Housing Sector many are excited by the prospect of connected homes, with basic motion sensors already supporting elderly and disabled tenants.
IoT could also allow for early detection and reporting of maintenance issues, contributing to faster fixes, lowered costs and a better resident experience. Advanced IoT sensors can be installed on seemingly inconspicuous household appliances such as ovens and boilers, alerting the tenant or homeowner before it completely breaks and providing precise diagnostics about the problem. Any data collected can then be given to a technician who can fix the problem in half the time.
Similarly, sensors can be installed to detect changes in humidity and room temperature. Prevention is better than cure. If the tenant or housing association can be made aware of any problems in advance they can take action, such as investing in dehumidifiers, before they have a much bigger and more costly issue on their hands, such as damp or mould.
By Streamlining Administrative Tasks
Rent payments, maintenance reviews and other key operational tasks can all be simplified with the right infrastructure. Online tenant portals where advice, account details and repairs can be reported, without the need for in-person or telephone interactions, are becoming more common. Although face-to-face communication is invaluable and sometimes necessary, streamlining administrative processes will free up resources and reduce costs, whilst empowering the tenants to self-manage.
It will also lead to enhanced data management which will improve security and give Housing employees access to accurate information which can be used to further transform tenant services.
Keeping up with the evolving technology landscape can be challenging. Within the Housing sector tenants expect a fast response to their queries and a service that caters to their specific needs. Creating personalised experiences, increasing efficiency and streamlining processes will ultimately enable Housing Associations to offer a more consistent, high quality and cost-effective service in the long term.
As experts in IT Communications, Support, Security, and digital transformation, we can provide you with end-to-end consultancy to support your journey. We’ll work with you to build a secure, sustainable IT strategy with a view to improving the tenant experience, saving money and reducing resources where at all possible.
Contact us for a free no obligation consultation to discuss how Conosco can elevate your digital transformation journey!