Helping social housing residents live happier and healthier lives

Helping social housing residents live happier & healthier lives
Home Insights Helping social housing residents live happier and healthier lives

Following the recent launch of our Healthy Homes service, and our increased focus on supporting our social landlord customers to improve their housing stock, Summer Sampson, Disrepair Manager at Wates, shares insight on the long-term solutions needed to help social housing overcome some of its biggest challenges.

Everything we do for our social landlord customers is a balance of many equally important priorities. First and foremost we’re there to improve the quality of housing for residents, whether that’s a planned repair, a fire safety upgrade or an improvement to energy efficiency. Another high priority is our customer’s budget. Social landlords are constantly investing in housing stock improvements, so we have to ensure that budgets are being optimised. Underpinning these key priorities is a continuous question of if and how we can do things better, so we get the best value for money for the landlord and the best outcome for the resident. Our new Healthy Homes service has emerged from our constant drive to improve. Social housing faces some huge challenges, particularly with disrepair, and damp and mould. Our job is to provide the solution.

A long-term solution for disrepair

All social landlords will be well versed in the difficulties and costly challenges of disrepair cases. Residents who wait for repairs have every right to be empowered to take action, and we work with our landlord customers to remedy these cases as quickly as we can. But the rising challenge of disrepair begs the question; what if it could be prevented entirely? Would the money spent by social landlords on legal fees not be better spent on property improvements? With millions spent on disrepair cases every year, the scale of the challenge means there is no quick fix, but it’s time we took a more long-term view to start bringing down the number of disrepair cases. If we can do that, landlords can reallocate their disrepair budget to all sorts of more positive measures to improve their housing stock such as capital works or energy efficiency, and this ultimately benefits the residents.

In developing our Healthy Homes service, we have trialled a number of processes to help bring down disrepair cases. A successful example is in our work for Lambeth Borough Council where we are delivering borough-wide repairs and maintenance. For Lambeth, we successfully moved a lot of our work to a more direct-labour model, which on this contract immediately improved our response rate for repair cases, thereby reducing the risk of disrepair. This is not to say that direct labour is always the solution; our supply chain partners are still very valuable to our contract delivery. What it does show, however, is our willingness to challenge ourselves, to look at what is or isn’t working, and change our strategy. Key to this is collaboration. Knowing what will work for any given contract is reliant on a deep understanding of a landlord, its systems and its unique challenges.

Preventative solutions for damp and mould

Issues around damp and mould are extremely serious, and everyone in the industry must treat them as such. Bringing damp and mould under our new Healthy Homes service, is how Wates is working to tackle this urgent problem. As with disrepair, the key here is having a long-term approach to preventing worsening issues. For damp and mould that means finding the root-cause of the problem and resolving it before it becomes more serious. Through our Healthy Homes service, we’re bringing cost effective but innovative solutions to the table for our customers to enable them to improve the ventilation of properties to prevent damp and mould. Whether this is thermoboards to improve insulation, air bricks that monitor humidity and support ventilation, and air monitoring systems to help improve air quality, we’re teeing up a whole range of products that we can work with customers to install.

Supporting residents through their challenges

Occupied repairs and maintenance is a job where you must have absolute trust, and my experience of contract delivery is that if we have a resident’s trust then we have the best chance of doing our job quickly and well. When it comes to issues of disrepair, or damp and mould, there is an understandable level of mistrust that we have to consider. Having a personal touch with residents so they feel understood, comfortable and reassured is an absolute must, and for this reason our Healthy Homes service – like our wider repairs and maintenance portfolio – is managed with the support of our Resident Liaison Officer (RLO) teams. We’re there to help residents get their issues resolved, but we also know that a resident may have experienced some stress in getting to a resolution. The launch of our Healthy Homes service is designed to take a step back in that process, and work with our customers to nip these challenges in the bud, allowing their residents to live happier and healthier lives.