COVID-19 effect felt as early as March as HouseMark launches first sector-wide impact report

HouseMark has launched the first sector-wide impact report as part of a three-month COVID-19 impact analysis exercise, enabling landlords to contextualise the effects of the coronavirus pandemic, forecast likely future implications and take targeted action early to support recovery. 

The first report, that represents feedback from landlords from across the UK, starts to show the immediate scale of the impact and challenges for the housing sector. In March alone, 1.3 million (26%) tenants have been identified as vulnerable across the UK and a further 800,000 tenancies (16%) are at risk of falling into arrears due to financial insecurity linked to the pandemic.

Compared to the same period in 2019, headline findings include:

- Arrears levels have already increased by 5% representing £33 million across the sector.

- Lettings sign-ups decreased by 11%. New government guidance advising landlords to pause non-essential allocation and transfer activity is likely to result in further drops in April and May. 

- HouseMark forecasts a longer-term impact on void loss from a sector average of 0.94% of rent lost due to vacant dwellings to an end of year figure to more than double that (2.17%)

- The number of gas safety certificates renewed before expiry dropped to 96.6%, compared to a more usual performance of 99.9% This relates to an additional 10,000 properties without a valid gas safety certificate.

The report also outlines early impact on housing staff:

- Staff sickness has increased by 65%, providing a real challenge for some landlords with specialist services that cannot easily be back-filled.

- Around 50% of landlords have furloughed staff (representing 8.8% of all employees).

- More than half (52.3%) of employees are working remotely. Around a third (31.6%) essential front-line workers are still in contact with other staff and/or residents. 

ACCESS THE EXECUTIVE SUMMARY HERE

Talking about the findings, HouseMark Chief Executive Laurice Ponting said: 

“The coronavirus pandemic has had an unprecedented impact on our society, economy and personal lives, and the social housing sector is no exception. COVID-19 Impact Monitoring is the first of several data-driven solutions we have launched to help the sector to understand the impact, forecast the out turns and respond effectively. 

“Social landlords provide a critical front-line service to many of the most vulnerable people in society and have had to rapidly adapt to a crisis that could not have been foreseen only a few months ago. Good data has never been more important, as we have seen in the global response to the pandemic.

“We will be using this information alongside HouseMark’s unique 20 years of historical housing data to reveal the current impact of COVID-19 and forecast future implications for our members, enabling them to take the most appropriate action to drive recovery.  These are very complex issues, but we have been encouraged by our conversations with members who are looking to HouseMark to help them understand what ‘good’ looks like in the new normal.”

Thank you to all organisation who took part in our first COVID-19 Impact Monitoring exercise. The phenomenal response shows the commitment and enthusiasm from the entire housing sector to using data to drive decision-making in these difficult times.

The full analysis report is exclusively available to participating organisations. Landlords interested in participating in the April exercise can find out more here or contact jonathan.cox@housemark.co.uk to find out more. 

By Emily Dixon

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