With financial pressures growing, Social Housing providers are looking for new methods to cut the costs. DocTech‘s Managing Director, has offered insight into the changing landscape.
New technologies, and in particular digitalisation and automation, have been transformative for some in the sector, saving both time and money. In a survey conducted by Inside Housing, 32% said digital transformation was considered a top priority and 65% of leaders believed digital transformation was key to their development. .
Ruban Rajasooriyar, managing director at DocTech, highlights the challenges faced by Social Housing organisations and shares predictions for the future of technology in the sector.
An Industry Under Pressure
In March, the Government regulator of Social Housing published its latest quarterly survey of private registered providers’ financial health. It showed that the sector secured £3.4 billion in new finance, putting borrowing at £121.8 billion – the highest level for six years.
Wider economic pressures including inflation, higher borrowing costs and a softening housing market, are all thought to be adding financial pressure.
With a tightening of the purse strings there is an industry-wide push to deliver efficiency savings across the full range of services. The adoption of new technologies is one way the sector is looking to make savings in both time and money.
The Future of Technology in Social Housing
Technology is a rapidly changing world. What is considered science fiction today could be science fact tomorrow. Based on current trends, Ruban Rajasooriyar has made predictions for the technology adoption in Social Housing that we are likely to see over the coming years.
Data Management Will Be Digitally Streamlined
Technologies that allow access from mobile devices will provide remote and field-based workers with real-time access to information and systems.
By automating processes, moving to digital signature solutions, and creating a digital trail across the organisation, Social Housing providers will remove time-consuming manual processes in finance, HR and tenant management.
Social Housing organisations will therefore adopt an integrated document management solution to digitalise information, enabling housing providers to collect and leverage data.
AI and Automation Will Save Time and Money
Since its launch in November 2022, the news has been awash with talk of ChatGPT.
Although the future is still unclear on the adoption of these technologies, Artificial Intelligence (AI) tools have the potential to significantly improve efficiency and reduce costs for Social Housing associations.
Future AI driven applications could assist staff to more quickly and efficiently action repetitive tasks such as answering tenant queries, processing applications, and scheduling appointments, freeing up staff to focus on more complex tasks.
IT Infrastructure Will Become More Agile
Social Housing will move fully into “the cloud”.
Rather than storing information on their own computers and servers, migrating to a cloud-based system will make Social Housing organisations more agile and able to adapt to new technologies, capable of handling larger volumes of data in real time and providing high levels of security to protect personal data and business critical applications.
One of the key factors limiting digital transformation today in Social Housing is the underlying IT infrastructure.
Self-Service for Tenants
Digital adoption has increased as more tenants become tech-savvy.
Although a proportion of tenants still rely on person-to-person support, a growing number prefer to manage information through apps or online document portals making it easier to check rent payments, report maintenance issues or simply update personal details.
In the future, AI technologies built on more mature versions of applications such as ChatGPT will only enhance this digital interaction, with tenants using virtual assistants to guide them through the application process, provide information on rental agreements, and answer virtually any question. Up until fairly recently the ability to have a natural language conversation with a Chatbot was not always productive.
Connected data and analytics could also help housing providers identify indicators of rental payment issues, so that action to prevent them falling into arrears can be taken.
Smart Systems Empower Better Working Practices
It is estimated that more than 150,000 smart devices are installed in tenants’ homes by social landlords across the UK. This number is expected to hit 1 million devices by the end of 2024 and to become the norm across the industry.
Some projects start with a move away from manual testing of emergency lighting. Technicians previously had to attend the site to determine if there were any problems. If so, then the next step was to order the part for replacement and at a later date return to site to complete the repair. LED bulbs have saved countless trips.
Preventative maintenance is hugely advanced by adopting Internet of Things (IoT) technology, in this case by sensing and communicating potential failures ahead of them happening,
Beyond this, smart locks cut down on delays as they allow tradespeople to be let in remotely; smart temperature sensors help detect issues with mould, before problems arise; and smart leak sensors have been used to help prevent or minimise water damage.
The combined bill of maintenance and repairs for Social Housing organisations in the UK was a staggering £5.5bn in 2019/20. With an estimated 10-20% of failed visits, something that can be significantly reduced through the adoption of smart tech.
Research from showhouse.co.uk shows nearly half (49%) of smart tech owners reported an average annual saving of £318 by swapping appliances to smart devices.
Digitalisation Must Be Proactive
Social Housing providers have historically been reactive rather than proactive, responding to events such as reported repair issues or tenant arrears.
Technology will create a more proactive model for Social Housing, with smart home technologies flagging potential maintenance issues, tenant management systems automating document processing and compliance – all dramatically improving efficiency.
DocTech has worked with Social Housing providers throughout the UK for 20 years. The company was recently shortlisted as Technology Partner at the 2023 Northern Housing Awards.
To find out more, visit www.doctech.co.uk