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It’s time to put retrofit schemes at the top of the agenda 

With the UK’s current cost of living crisis and other recent news reports putting the condition and suitability of the country’s social housing stock into question, the retrofit topic has again become a major subject of discussion. 

A perfect storm has been created where rising bills are putting many social housing tenants into fuel poverty and subsequently, at greater risk of exposure to damp and mould as they cannot afford to heat their homes effectively. Following the recent tragic news of 2 year old Awaab Ishak’s death due to exposure to mould in his home, social housing landlords face enormous pressure to provide safe, warm, and habitable housing for their residents.

This additional pressure comes on top of the raft challenges landlords are already struggling to tackle. These include: meeting the Government’s 2050 net zero target by ensuring housing stock meets the required EPC C standard by 2031, clearing   backlogs of repairs work caused by Covid, overcoming shortages in skilled workers to fulfil jobs, rising material costs, new legislation, fire safety remediation works, and a cap on social housing rent.

When social landlords have so much to contend with, how can they also go about prioritising retrofit projects alongside their standard repairs and maintenance services, whilst also keeping abreast of the latest regulations, and ensuring their housing stock remains compliant and meeting the Decent Home Standard?

Balancing priorities and budget

The Climate Change Committee who released a progress report to parliament earlier this year, concluded that Britain’s social landlords have currently made some progress with retrofitting. However, the country will not hit the 2031 target for all housing stock achieving EPC grade C or above until it resolves some of the gaping holes in its strategy. 

Britain’s energy efficiency within housing has been highlighted within the report as one of the main areas where a “shocking gap in policy” exists. Nevertheless, even if there are policy gaps currently, landlords can still take the initiative on their retrofit plans as the Government’s vision is clear. 

With so much to prioritise, and with retrofit projects still primarily being driven by the Government’s net-zero targets, perhaps landlords should place greater emphasis on what they and their tenants stand to gain. It goes without saying that tenants should always be central to the decisions landlords make; a topic that we have explored further in a previous blog.

We have already seen evidence from completed retrofit schemes, such as this one in Stratford-upon-Avon, that tenants are financially better off and more comfortable when their homes are upgraded to meet heightened EPC standards. And that additionally, landlords also stand to gain by performing essential renovations. This is because a reduction in maintenance costs will become a long-term benefit as upgraded properties require less ongoing repairs and maintenance investment. Furthermore, by providing a better standard of housing, landlords can ensure that they are not the next provider to be struck with government sanctions after failing their tenants. 

Funding is just one part of the issue

Government investment has come in the form of the Social Housing Decarbonation Fund, an initiative launched in 2020 to support landlords in reaching net zero carbon emissions. However, even if sufficient funds were available to carry out the retrofit schemes, there is still the question of how social landlords can deliver extensive retrofit projects alongside their existing reactive and planned maintenance works and void programmes.

The housing sector continues to suffer from a massive skilled worker shortage and supply chain problems, resulting in lengthy repairs and maintenance backlogs. This has led to many social housing landlords feeling like they have no option but to delay embarking on retrofit projects because they simply cannot deliver them effectively. However, recent news shows that the sector simply cannot keep pushing this agenda back any longer and it must act now to improve the standard of social housing within the UK and better the lives of those that call these properties ‘home’.

In light of the complexity of the issues facing the sector, we believe that social housing landlords stand to benefit significantly if they can improve their operational efficiencies, something we know can be achieved by embracing new technology.

Doing more with less 

Streamlining processes can enhance the efficiency and productivity of repair and maintenance services. For over a decade, Oneserve has been providing field management software dedicated to helping the Social Housing sector solve these challenges.

By adopting service management technology like Oneserve, social housing landlords can achieve more with less. For example, Oneserve typically generates efficiency and productivity improvements of between 25% and 60%. Taking the lower end of these percentages as an example, if a landlord had 20 operatives delivering 80 jobs a day, Oneserve could increase that to 100 jobs a day from the exact same operatives. This case study illustrates how Oneserve helped our client-partner, Sovini in this respect.

In our next blog, we will take a deep-dive into how Oneseve’s innovative features can make repairs and maintenance service delivery simpler, faster, and better, to help social housing landlords overcome the risks and challenges they face today.

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