[Blog] How AI can benefit the Social Housing sector – part 1
This is the first in a running theme of blogs that will focus on how AI is being used in different sectors.
We have found that the breadth, depth and application of AI and automation varies significantly from sector to sector. Despite that there are similarities between sectors and a lot to learn from each. We believe that many organisations can benefit from understanding how AI is being applied elsewhere – both to see how they compare and to get ideas on what is possible.
First off, we are focusing on the Social Housing sector.
Challenges facing the sector
Technology has not always been a priority in the sector but that has changed over the past decade. An element of this change was driven by increasing expectations on Housing Associations to start to engage with and to treat their residents as customers.
Many Housing Associations have chosen to explore how technology can improve operations and the services offered to their residents. AI and automation are only just emerging as a tool that could help the sector but there are several reasons that it might be a great fit.
Lots of residents
Housing Associations provide homes for many, many residents. For example, the largest owns and manages 125,000 homes and therefore potentially double or triple that in terms of residents. The cost and effort involved in communicating, understanding, helping and retaining that volume of customers is significant.
Housing Associations are not for profit organisations – all revenue generated is re-invested into the purchase and maintenance of their properties, running the organisation and providing services to their residents. Consequently, cost saving initiatives are a priority.
The 2018 Government Green Paper, “A New Deal for Social Housing”, found that there was at least one vulnerable family member in approximately half of the 8,000 households surveyed. This includes people fleeing domestic abuse, facing homelessness, those with learning difficulties or with mental health problems.
Housing Associations recognise the importance of meeting the broad and varied needs of these residents. This is far from easy though as contact can be unpredictable.
Each new generation of Housing Association residents have higher expectations in terms of the services they receive and the use of technology in their everyday lives. They expect to be able to access services how they want and when they want. Meeting these growing expectations without a huge budget for innovation can be a challenge.
Efficient management of assets
Housing Associations typically have a large stock of properties and assets within those properties. These need regular servicing, maintenance and/or replacement. As well as responding to customer requests for fixes, management of assets and this scale is no small task.
Housing Associations must comply with regulations set by the Regulator of Social Housing. These span their properties, tenancies, community and tenant engagement. Automation can ensure that regulatory activities are completed and then recorded as required.