National Housing Day

This year on October 8th across the sector, housing professionals shared stories on how we deliver better community investment. In a sector often beleaguered by bad press, it is important that we tell our success stories and benchmark ourselves.

In 2015, senior communications officer Ade Capon at Yorkshire Housing decided that Housing Associations, Local Councils and other stakeholders needed to start telling their own stories, and so #HousingDay was born.  Housing has been one of the sectors most affected by austerity, policy reform and the hostile environment in the last decade. It’s important for all of us in housing to celebrate the life-changing work we put in.

This year as well as being a tie that we can get together online to share our successes there was a physical event in Oxfordshire hosted by Cottsway Housing. The leading theme of discussion was ‘Community Investment’ that showcased how housing providers build communities. The event was facilitated by the former chair of Cottway’s scrutiny panel, Leslie Channon. Cottsway Housing supported her getting her Masters  Degree in housing studies and is currently the chair of the national Voice for Tenants group.

“Community investment is one of those things that we do that can sometimes go unnoticed but can in fact have a hugely beneficial impact. We wanted to use this year’s #HousingDay to highlight this important area of work and remind people that it shouldn’t be a ‘nice thing to do’ add-on but an integral part of the business.”

Leslie Channon, 24Housing

Community Investment is something that Housing Associations have been executing over 100 years in the UK. This year on the Housing Partners blog we have dedicated a lot of the time to our ‘Building Sustainable Tenancies’ series – tackling subjects such as digital skills training and financial inclusion we have built case studies around the great work our clients such as Swan Housing have undertaken.  Building sustainable tenancies is best achieved by investing the lives of your tenants. On the blog of our flagship service HomeSwapper we communicate directly with tenants and engage with a wide range of topics including accessing funds for community improvement and financial literacy.

“For housing associations, familiarity breeds appreciation, not contempt. On all sides of the political spectrum, the stakeholders who interact most with housing associations tend to like them more, even though they are also more likely to have had negative experiences as well as positive. Engaging and telling our story works.” National Housing Federation

Three strategies for community investment

  1. Benchmark

Benchmarking in the housing sector differs to many other businesses; it is not about competition or ranking yourself against others. Usually, customers don’t have a choice as to which local authority they work with. What benchmarking means is sharing what’s working for you and learning from others what works for them, encouraging sector-wide best-practice, whilst undertaking work that has real impact in people’s lives. Joining up the dots with other housing providers and agencies taking a more multidisciplinary approach is going to assist us all with weathering certain changes in the coming years.

  1. Measure customer satisfaction

Asking what is working for those who are impacted the most – understanding their pressure points. This could mean collecting data at key stages throughout the process, the areas in which customers feel most vulnerable can be highlighted and internal service improvement can then be made in line with this.

  1. Share your experiences

Talk about your projects, explaining the thought process behind starting them and whether they are successes or failures. Your customers – both businesses and residents – want to know the impact. Results don’t need to be about profit and sharing your lessons beyond the bottom line is what illustrates your purpose as an organisation.