With so much happening in the world of social housing right now, Kirsty Wells reflects on her recent experience chairing the ARCH and NFA Chief Officers Conference, focussing on how housing providers navigate their way through the current operating environment, meet challenges, and continue to improve services and homes for residents.

Incorporating some of the many and varied areas covered in the conference, our A to Z of housing gives an overview of the housing sector’s current priorities, changes and challenges.

A is for Awaab’s Law

In the wake of the tragic death of two-year-old Awaab Ishak, caused by the damp and mould in his home, Awaab’s Law will force social landlords to fix damp and mould issues within strict time limits, in a new amendment to the Social Housing Regulation Bill.

The new rules will form part of tenancy agreements, so residents can hold landlords to account by law if they fail to provide a decent home.

B is for Building Safety and Building Better

Following the report and recommendations of The Better Social Housing Review, housing providers are looking at ways to improve the quality of their existing homes with limited budgets, including retrofits, refurbishments, rectifying damp and mould, and working to provide better homes and services for residents.

C is for Compliance and communication

Put simply, housing providers need to comply with new and existing regulation whilst communicating with their customers to improve accountability and satisfaction.

D is for Damp and mould

It couldn’t be anything else. Such a huge and emotive subject in the current world of social housing. Housemark’s damp and mould report will be published ahead of the Housing Data and Analytics Summit in November. And our latest housing inspection module Photobook+ has been developed specifically for damp and mould management.

But of course, D is also for Data (because that is what we do) see Y (!) and Decarbonisation – see Z!

E is for Electrical safety

Electrical safety inspection rates have risen incrementally, by 0.9 percentage points, as greater numbers of homes have updated their electrical safety checks. As of March 2023, 98.87% of homes have an EICR Certificate less than 5 years old.

F is for Funding and the future

How do housing providers meet all the demands and requirements of the Government and Regulator in light of the current rent settlement and cost-of-living crisis arrears risk? Future funding is a huge challenge.

G is for Granular understanding (of Stock Condition Survey data)

Understanding stock condition is a key recommendation of The Better Social Housing Review, which found that “there is currently no comprehensive, consistently measured picture of the state of social housing across the country” and recommended that housing associations should work together to conduct a thorough audit of all social housing in England. We need to understand in real time the detailed data and information relating to our homes.

H is for Homes and Housing Revenue Accounts (HRAs)

How do landlords invest in existing homes and tenants when there is such a government focus on them to get new homes built?

How do councils ensure value for money for their HRAs when there is so much pressure on their general funds and the rent settlement reduced their rental income?

I is for Income and insight

Income: whether its tenants’ income being stretched further or landlords ensuring their income stream remains intact, the cost-of-living crisis is having a real impact on the social housing sector and its customers.

Insight: we need to gather the most useful data we can and ensure that we understand what to do with it.

J is for Judgements

In March, The Regulator of Social Housing (RSH) published the financial viability and governance gradings for 13 social landlords in its latest round of regulatory judgements, with two downgraded for financial viability and one downgraded for governance. The new regulatory inspection regime will inspect all large social landlords every four years, setting new expectations for the services that landlords need to provide and giving the Regulator stronger powers to hold housing providers to account.

K is for Knowledge

It has never been more important to share knowledge and work together as a sector. Make sure to book onto our November Housing Data and Analytics Summit to keep on track with the latest data and shared housing sector knowledge.

L is for Legacy homes and legislation and learning

Legacy homes is increasingly being seen as an outdated term with negative connotations; they are simply existing homes so let’s call them that.

Legislation. Quite simply, there is a huge amount for housing providers to understand and comply with.

Learning. The latest government action to drive up standards and improve the lives of social housing residents includes professional qualifications being made mandatory for social housing managers. But is this the right way to improve standards?

M is for Money and management

How do we make limited funds and capped rents stretch to meet all the requirements and ambitions of housing providers? Management is key, whether of homes, finances, data, people, or whole organisations, the governance and financial stability of housing providers is certainly in the spotlight.

N is for Neighbours

Reports of anti-social behaviour had risen by 30% in February 2023 when compared to the same time last year.   If the Government maintains its initial momentum and increases resources to include social housing providers as partners to the Police and other agencies, we expect to see an increase in recorded ASB amongst landlords in the social housing sector; up to double the rates we are reporting for 2022/23.

O is for Ombudsman  and online surveys

Changes to the Housing Ombudsman Scheme came into effect in October 2022, making it easier for residents to access the Ombudsman service if they are unhappy with their landlord’s response to a complaint they have made.

With regards to online surveys, our Director of Data and Business Intelligence Jonathan Cox’s advice is don’t do them. He explained in this blog why collecting your responses online could result in satisfaction figures up to 15 per cent lower than when using alternative methods.

P is for Professionalism and panels

Professionalism. See L for Learning!

Panels. The Better Social Housing Review recommended that “housing associations should work with all tenants to ensure that they have a voice and influence at every level of decision making across the organisation, through both voluntary and paid roles.” We will see an increase in landlords attempting to engage with tenants on local neighbourhood panels.

Q is for Quality

Quality services, quality housing and quality outcomes for customers.

R is for Regulation, reputation, repairs  and regeneration

Wow, R is a busy one! Regulation, as covered, is a huge area of discussion and change currently with a new regulatory framework to work with.

Reputation is obvious; although most housing providers are doing everything they can to provide quality homes and services, the reputation of social housing as a whole is at an all-time low.

Regeneration of communities is an area we need to ensure is not forgotten amidst the focus on stock condition and new builds. But how do we fund this?

And finally repairs. One of the most important things to residents. Rapid and quality repairs are simply vital in maintaining quality homes and increasing satisfaction levels.

S is for Standards.

Simply put, we need to set ambitious standards and stick to them.

T is for TSMs

The new Tenant Satisfaction Measures came into effect on 1April in England. Our recent blog looked at the reasons for declining tenant satisfaction, what the new TSMs mean for landlords, and the impact of variables on your satisfaction results.

U is for Universal Credit

According to the Joseph Rowntree Foundation’s latest research, households on low incomes and universal credit are suffering the most hardships in the current cost-of-living crisis, with 7.2 million going without essentials and 4.7 million in arrears. Benefits are no longer enough to live on.

V is for Value for money

The recently published value for money report from the Regulator of Social Housing predicted headline costs for landlords in managing and maintaining their homes will rise by 38% over the next five years. Our research manager John Wickenden recently delved deeper into what’s driving costs up and what housing providers can do to tackle the Value for Money conundrum for Inside Housing.

W is for Waste management

Building regulations and fire safety remain high priorities for landlords and can save lives.  Waste needs to be well-manged to prevent hazards and risks.

X is for…erm, any ideas? How about a consistently improved resident Xperience and an Xciting future for social housing? After all, that is what we all hope for and work so hard for.

Y is for y=mx+c

Data is what we do: we’re here as the housing data experts to support YOU with these challenges and opportunities.

Z is for Zero Carbon

So last in the list but certainly not last in terms of priorities, is Zero Carbon. And rightly so. It is widely agreed that we need to move on this urgently as a sector, and as a country. The latest Social Housing Decarbonisation Fund from the Department for Energy Security and Net Zero (DESNZ), plus the work being carried out using Wave 1 funding, will increase the number of energy efficient warm homes, with reduced energy bills for residents, but more is needed to meet the sector’s net zero carbon aims.

So, there you have it. A full alphabet of housing hazards, hopes, and hotspots. Get in touch if you need advice or support: kirsty.wells@housemark.co.uk