Has housing management had its day?
As a number of challenges are pushing housing providers to look again at the way they deliver services our head of practice Debbie Larner asks what housing management means today.
Has housing management had its day?
Well the short answer in my opinion is 'no', although arguably the terminology may be a bit old hat these days!
It's clear how we deliver housing management services to tenants is evolving in response to a variety of changes including tightening budgets, welfare reforms, new technologies, mergers and also in light of the Grenfell tragedy in June this year. In addition, housing providers are also dealing with a broader customer base as they develop a more diverse housing portfolio – shared ownership, market rent, shared housing and more – meaning our traditional offer needs a rethink.
There is no single definition of a housing officer – in some cases, like at RHP, housing organisations have removed the role completely, while for others, like Bromford, the job has been enhanced to encompass a wider neighbourhood coaching role. To repeat the cliché – there really is no 'one size fits' all model of either a housing officer or a housing management service.
So what is housing management in 2017?
I have been thinking about this a lot post Grenfell and working with colleagues at the Chartered Institute of Facilities Management on our response to the Grenfell Tower Inquiry. Specifically we are working together to provide input into the management and maintenance section of the inquiry. What became clear very quickly was that our view of what housing management was very, very different - they focused on the building whereas we, as housing professionals, focus on the people.
Yes we need to take care of the building, but actually our role as housing managers has to be about people – our tenants – ensuring they can meet their tenant obligations, supporting those who are vulnerable, helping to maximise income and get them into work, looking after their health and safety and well-being and being at the heart of communities.
I’ve heard the argument that the increased channel shift from traditional face-to-face contact to more digital engagement undermines the people nature of the role. I don’t think the two are mutually exclusive and actually the focus on increasing digital transactions helps free up valuable resources to tailor services to those who have more complex needs.
It’s a really interesting time for housing management and the role of the housing professional – I think we are just beginning the discussions and the next question we need to think about is what will housing management look like in five, ten and 15 years time.
That is a debate we must have and which will form a central part of our Housing Management Conference taking place in Solihull on 30 November - 1 December.
Our expert speakers will be driving this debate and we want to hear from you too.
Among many others:
- Jenny Osbourne, CEO, TPAS will share her views on how we need to engage with customers and what we need to do differently to make that engagement meaningful.
- Melanie Rees, our head of policy, will set out how the wider policy environment will impact on housing management now and in the future.
- Sam Scharf, head of community investment at Orbit Housing Group, will prompt you to think differently about your approach to housing management and share different and innovative approaches being adopted at Orbit – and importantly, what they learned along the way.
- Ivan Johnson and Adam Clark from Broadland Housing will be reflecting on the past and looking forward to the future – what should housing management look like in the 21st century.
It's going to be a great event at a key time and we'd love to see you there.
Debbie Larner is head of practice at the Chartered Institute of Housing.