The Digital Transformation of Housing Associations: An Introduction

The Digital Transformation of Housing Associations: An Introduction

Housing Associations are an important part of any economy. In the UK, social housing supports around 20% of the country’s population, and Housing Providers are responsible for addressing some of the most complicated challenges facing our evolving society.

These groups aren’t just under constant pressure to deliver new forms of affordable housing to the masses, they also play a significant role in addressing social inequalities, fostering community growth, and preserving wellbeing.

With so many unique challenges to face, Housing Associations have been increasingly turning towards digital tools and technologies to assist them in achieving their goals. The transformation of the Housing landscape has only accelerated since the pandemic, further cementing a clear need for change. According to one report, 67% of Housing Associations have already made IT adjustments to address new demands for remote working and data management.

A survey by “Inside Housing” also revealed that 40% of respondents now have a digital transformation strategy in place, while another 50% were currently in the process of developing their strategy during 2022. Overall, 32% of the respondents in this study said digital transformation was a “top priority”, while another 65% said investing in transformation was key to their development.

Preparing for the Future of the Housing Landscape

The trend of “digital transformation” is nothing new, nor is it exclusive to the Housing landscape. In recent years, evolving communities and technologies have pushed countless organisations to rethink the way they approach everyday processes, from communicating with clients to managing data.

According to Capgemini, 87% of businesses now believe digital transformation provides them with opportunities to gain a competitive advantage in their market. Gartner also found that 27% of managers across countless companies consider transformation to be a “matter of survival”.

The increasing demand for evolution was already evident before the pandemic hit. However, around 80% of participants in the “Inside Housing” study said their Housing Association’s strategy for digital transformation had accelerated since COVID.

For housing associations, the key to successful digital transformation revolves around a few key areas. First and foremost, group leaders are under increasing pressure to become more “resident centric” at a time when many citizens are beginning to lose faith in government bodies. A government whitepaper known as the “Charter for Social Housing Residents”, outlines the emergence of rising expectations around social housing groups.

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Addressing Core Challenges with New Technology

While it’s fair to say digital transformation will impact virtually every Housing Association in the years to come, it’s difficult to know how each group will respond to the rising demand for evolution. Every institution and agency will have its own priorities when it comes to implementing new digital tools and technologies.

For some groups, the main focus may revolve around enabling employees, and ensuring team members can stay connected in a distributed environment. For others, digital transformation initiatives may specifically address key issues with resident relationships and data management.

The NHF charter outlines 6 key areas which are likely to impact the initiatives implemented by Housing Associations in the coming years. These include:

    • Improving resident relationships: One of the core focus areas for any housing association when implementing changes or new strategies, is preserving, and improving relationships with tenants. Tenants frequently suffer with issues when it comes to speaking to the right team member about problems and issues, and individual employees can often struggle to access the data required to assist tenants at the right moment. Digital transformation and technology could be the keys to helping associations form communities that transcend specific locations and places.
    • Improving access to clear, timely information: Access to timely, relevant, and clear information is a must for any housing association. Unfortunately, distributed, and siloed technologies and legacy systems can often lead to significant knowledge gaps. Implementing technology which allows groups to align knowledgebases and resources could be an important step in ensuring that both employees and tenants alike can access the resources they need during crucial periods.
    • Ensuring every resident has a voice: Tenants need to feel empowered to make their voices heard in any housing environment. Relationships and communities thrive when residents feel as though they’re being listened to. However, collecting and managing data from a range of residents can be complex without the right tools. Housing Associations need to invest in digital transformation to unlock new modes of collaboration and data management.
    • Making better decisions with data: The right decisions can make or break a housing association. Better decisions in most industries start with improved access to the correct data. With the right data analysis, agents can make life-changing decisions which significantly benefit their tenants, and pave the way for positive growth. However, accessing this data analysis also requires companies to leverage the right technology, tools, and resources.
    • Maintaining homes for citizen wellbeing: Maintaining a huge number of different homes in a Social Housing environment requires groups to collaborate with partners, contractors, and third-party agents easily. The right communication tools can help to preserve these crucial connections, and make it easier to address issues according to time-sensitive deadlines. AI tools can even help companies to quickly recognise keywords in a tenant request, and trigger responsive actions immediately.
    • Improving strategies for managing issues: Making it easy for tenants to raise potential issues with agents and experts is crucial to staying on top of Housing problems. Implementing the right digital tools to allow for the management, creation, and escalation of issues through the correct channels can help to streamline any Housing Association’s efforts.

Addressing the Core Areas of Digital Growth for Housing Associations

Just like with any industry, digital transformation and optimisation won’t necessarily happen overnight for housing associations. It will require groups to invest in the right planning, strategies, and policies to enable positive results. However, with the right plan in place, Housing Associations can improve community relationships, cut costs, and improve sentiment.

In the following series, we’ll be taking a closer look at the 6 key areas of transformation Housing Associations will need to consider, outlined by the NHF charter. We’ll also be exploring which digital tools and strategies Housing Associations can consider to begin implementing their own effective strategies for success. Read through our series for top tips, guidance, and expert support.

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