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The cost of living crisis’ impact on social housing

Stephen Henesy

CEO

22 April 2023

As the cost of living crisis continues to cause strain on many aspects of housing for residents and businesses, we take a look at the key challenges facing social housing providers.

Higher operating costs

Labour, utilities, materials and maintenance are areas where many social housing providers are seeing increased costs.

Labour costs

As 92 percent of households are reporting an increase in the cost of living, businesses must meet the financial needs of employees to attract and retain them.

Competitive pay is a crucial factor in ensuring talented individuals remain within the business, and over a third of the UK’s workforce considered changing jobs in 2022 to meet their income requirements.

Costs of materials and maintenance

In 2022, there were 1.2 million households on the waiting list for social housing in the UK – a total that has risen by 10 percent in the past five years. With this overwhelming and increasing demand, social housing providers are working relentlessly to produce dwellings that are fit for families of all sizes.

However, increased costs of materials mean more budget is required for the upkeep of existing properties, before investing in the production of more housing. With many tenants struggling to maintain their properties due to income constraints, social housing providers may see an uplift in the amount of maintenance required in these times.

Utility prices

Perhaps the most notable impact on households and businesses during this cost of living crisis has been increased utility bills. Energy prices saw a significant increase in 2022, with costs expected to rise again in 2023.

Social housing providers are not immune to the financial strain of increased utility bills, which require a higher percentage of the operating budget.

Funding challenges

Social housing providers are heavily reliant on external sources of funding to operate, and strained budgets from Government and donors may see social housing deprioritised.

Competition for funding amongst service providers is prominent as the budgets available do not meet the long-term needs of housing, healthcare and education, forcing cuts and prioritising urgent needs.

Government funding

As the cost of living crisis hits those most vulnerable in society, budgets may be redirected to more urgent services for immediate relief, such as emergency housing via private tenants.

Increased housing demand

Despite the increasing demand, the percentage of social and affordable housing falls steadily year on year. While utilising private housing for people awaiting social housing is not a long-term solution, it requires significant investment from the government, limiting resources directed to creating new homes and fulfilling the long-term need.

Charitable donations

Many social housing providers are dependent on charitable donations to support Government funding. However, during the cost of living crisis there is less opportunity to generate donations as potential donors use these funds for their own survival.

Softening the impact of the cost of living crisis

While social housing providers will inevitably feel the strain of the cost of living crisis across many areas of operations, some measures can be put in place to soften the impact.

Streamlining operations and maintenance

While it seems counterintuitive to invest money and resources into onboarding new technologies, it can have an almost immediate impact into reducing resources in some areas of the business.

Maintenance and onboarding new tenants use large amounts of resources on administration that could be automated, as the vast majority of tenants are able to carry this out via the internet, without additional support required from an individual.

For example, Helpthemove’s software streamlines the process, managing change of tenancy notifications to council, water and energy in one go, via an online portal. This cuts admin time down by 90 percent, allowing team resources to be dedicated into other areas driving more revenue.

Increasing tenancy support services

Services such as financial counselling and employment assistance, perhaps in partnership with other organisations, could go a long way in securing the long term financial health of tenants, ensuring consistent and timely delivery of bills.

By investing in support, it reduces the risk of falling into arrears, which can lead to high turnover and evictions.

The cost of living crisis will continue to have an impact on social housing providers and the tenants they serve, with a strain expected in the long term for funding, upkeep and demand.

Creating resources that truly support tenants builds a foundation for trust in social housing providers, resulting in long-term lets and increased tenant happiness.

For a technology that supports the needs of social housing providers and your tenants, learn more from our experienced team.

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