The pandemic has thrown a spotlight on the importance of our homes. When lockdown was introduced and we were confined to our homes, we all had time to reflect on our living situations, our surroundings, as well as where the nearest green spaces were for our daily exercise. Our homes became not just a refuge but a workplace, a school, a gym.
The pandemic was a lot more challenging for those who aren’t living in good conditions, don’t have ample space or live with difficult neighbours. Poor quality housing has been directly linked to poor health outcomes and these issues were intensified by the confinement to our homes. Additionally, in the first three months of lockdown, our COVID-19 impact monitoring found that landlords were dealing with an additional 200 anti-social behaviour cases per day (a 43% increase), and confinement to our homes, this has then created a whole host of other issues.
There has been an increasing rise in mental health problems since the pandemic and the quality of housing is directly linked to wellbeing. Neighbourhoods with poor-quality housing, few resources, and unsafe conditions impose stress, which can lead to depression.
Housing conditions can greatly influence our physical health too. A house that isn’t dry and warm can create respiratory conditions, which is particularly concerning when during this pandemic we’re faced with a virus that attacks the lungs.
The importance of these considerations is highlighted further in the recent publication of the Social Housing White Paper (SHWP) The charter for social housing residents: social housing white paper – GOV.UK (www.gov.uk) which sets out to focus on the specific responsibilities of social landlords in increasing stock quality standards and accountability to tenants. The SHWP highlights that social housing tenants have been concerned about poor neighbourhood management, upkeep of buildings and the quality of shared spaces.
Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, some residents have also struggled to find green spaces to exercise, and others have experienced isolation, loneliness, and the challenge of dealing with anti-social behaviour. The SHWP sets out to ensure that residents receive access to green spaces and a greater standard of living as a top priority.
What’s next for the future of homes and neighbourhoods?
Our quarterly forecast for Housemark members found that neighbourhoods of the future will focus on:
- Maximising internal space in homes to facilitate home working
- Enhancing green spaces around homes – for wellbeing and biodiversity
- Looking for sites outside urban areas as city-living is less attractive during a pandemic
As we emerge from the pandemic, we need to really consider what people need moving forward as we enter a new era. It’s not about just ensuring that homes are of good quality but that they are fit for purpose moving forward maximising the internal space available, enhancing green spaces for wellbeing and biodiversity and looking for sites outside urban areas.
How can social landlords begin to achieve better quality homes?
Make the most of the resources available to you
The government has published the National design guide – GOV.UK (www.gov.uk) which promotes social interaction through encouraging well-integrated housing and other facilities that are designed to be tenure neutral and socially inclusive, with spaces that can be shared by all residents.
Discover the Quality of Life foundation report which sets out to suggest what communities, developers, designers and local authorities can do to encourage better places to live and improve the quality of life for residents.
Speak to your residents
Encourage residents to play an active role in deciding what their open and communal spaces should be like, how they could be used and how they should be looked after. All improvements should be led by residents’ needs and aspirations and it is important that they are involved at each stage of the process. Do they want a communal space where they can chat with neighbours, an outdoor space to grow vegetables, play sport or sit out and relax within nature?
Invest in the latest tech
Our Photobook app is designed to make life for estate teams easier. Photobook helps you to capture information when out and about to collate information on the quality of your neighbourhood. It’s seamlessly transferred to a web platform where a pdf report can be created to remove duplication of work and a paperless solution. Teams can access information from site as soon as an inspection is completed, ensuring that you deliver an efficient service for your customers and communities.
Seek out events where you can connect and share with your peers
We have an Estate Services Specialist Club, where you can come together with other social landlords in a supportive environment to share best practice and learn from each other. Some of the meeting topics this year included – how to improve the quality of homes and communal spaces.
Each Club meeting has sector thought leaders and speakers that can help provide you with a wealth of knowledge and advice across all the pressing matters that you face as a social landlord. The Club will leave you feeling inspired on how you can begin to tackle the challenges your estates teams may be facing, with tangible tools and takeaways that you can use within your organisation.
To secure your place at our Estate Services Club meeting on 20 October from only £135 + VAT (for Housemark members) contact firstname.lastname@example.org. To find out more about the full Housemark Specialist Clubs offer, access our brochure here.