In February, the Government’s long anticipated Housing White Paper was finally unveiled. The plans aim to build on the changes proposed in last year’s Autumn Statement and galvanise national housebuilding, delivering one million homes by 2020.
Though building new homes is the main thrust of fixing the UK’s broken housing market, I believe that a continued focus should also be placed on raising the standard of existing social and PRS properties.
Social landlords in the UK manage nearly five million domestic properties, 88 per cent of which were built before 1980. While certain strides have been made to increase the energy efficiency of new-build homes, which are designed fabric-first to meet EPC standards, the majority of social rented stock pre-dates many of these innovations.
Councils and housing associations have invested significantly since 2000 to upgrade their stock to meet Decent Homes Standards, but it is recognised that there is still room for improvement in some properties. As such, landlords may face complex and costly refurbishment, repairs and maintenance challenges.
Shelter research recently showed that four in every ten homes in the UK do not meet its definition of ‘Living Home Standard’. Meanwhile, NEA research has revealed that four million UK households face restricted life chances because they live in a cold, damp conditions.
The growth of technological innovation in social housing is highlighting many opportunities. IoT technology comprises a growing range of connected devices which are providing asset managers with access to previously unavailable data.
Whether the Switchee smart thermostat and other home environment monitoring equipment, or intelligent security systems, major advances have been made.
When acted upon and understood by asset managers, the analysis of smart data can unlock significant benefits for tenants and landlords, passing on cost savings and making older properties easier to maintain.
This could make existing rental stock more appealing to the market and ensure that living standards for those most vulnerable in society are as high as possible.
From our experience in the social housing sector, combining this approach to refurbishment with the strong new build housebuilding drive outlined in the White Paper will ultimately help make all tenure suitable for decent, comfortable living.