Lessons learned from Covid-19 in the social housing sector

Whilst there are a number of registered providers (RPs) in the market who have been supported through the current pandemic (mainly through the Covid Corporate Financing Facility (CCFF)), the social housing sector has not been singled out as requiring significant government support in the way that some other industries have. In fact, many would say that the sector has increased its standing throughout the pandemic.

Our lessons learned reviews have shown that the sector has experienced some positives changes, such as:

  1. Increasing the level of effective communication with tenants through the use of technology, video calls, remote working;
  2. Reacting quickly and effectively to tenant requests that arise from an increased use of the home; and
  3. Respecting the safety of staff, contractors and tenants throughout the pandemic, including helping set up mental health wellbeing clinics.

The reviews also highlighted that housing associations were quick to convene response groups covering all aspects of their operations, and stayed close to contractors to provide the best financial support possible through timely settlement of invoices, and the optimal amount of work to comply with social distancing.

Many RPs were disappointed that their previous 100% compliance scores around gas safety scores have fallen due to a lack of access to properties caused by tenants who are shielding. However, on the whole, most RPs have stated that their levels of interaction with tenants has increased over the last 6 months, resulting in greater levels of satisfaction.

Nevertheless, our reviews also highlighted that whilst the immediate reaction from RPs has been to continue business as usual to the greatest extent possible, it will be the coming months and years that provide the greatest challenge. As the government support for individuals and private sector businesses begins to decline, job losses are likely to increase resulting in increased rent arrears. This could have consequential impacts, such as delayed maintenance work, a slowdown in the housing buy market and reduced house price growth. 

Our reviews have highlighted a number of areas in which organisations are attempting to combat these risks and challenges, particularly in areas that are being affected by local lockdowns, both in England and Wales.