Driving Digital Transformation in Housing: A New Era for Tenant Engagement

In the fast-evolving landscape of housing in the UK, digital transformation is not just a buzzword but a strategic necessity. Housing associations, traditionally seen as conservative entities in adopting digital technologies, are now at the forefront of this revolution, providing more accessible, efficient, and customer-centric services. A prime example of this shift is the pioneering efforts of Johnnie Johnson Housing, a leading housing association in the North of England, which has embarked on a remarkable journey to redefine tenant experience through digital innovation.

Partnership for Innovation

At the beginning of the pandemic, Johnnie Johnson Housing recognised the urgent need to streamline processes and improve the way tenants managed their accounts online.  They partnered with Mediaworks, for their expertise and data-driven approach to design a new suite of tenant-facing digital platforms. This wasn’t just about technological progress but about putting tenants at the heart of the digital framework, enhancing online experiences, and accelerating a shift from manual to digital self-service.

A Comprehensive Digital Strategy

The strategy involved developing a mobile-first website, a user-friendly digital portal, and a convenient app, all designed to provide seamless experiences across multiple devices. Research and integration were the two key pillars of Mediaworks’ approach. By conducting focus-group research with residents and prospective tenants, the team gathered valuable insights that helped shape a customer-first digital estate. This involved building user-based personas to understand varied user needs and integrating with existing housing management systems through bespoke APIs, ensuring a frictionless cross-platform experience.

Impressive Outcomes

The impact of these digital platforms has been profound. Within just three months of its launch, Johnnie Johnson Housing saw an 82% increase in new housing applications and a surge in portal users, with a 732% increase in new users engaging with digital services for the first time. These figures not only underscore the success of the digital transformation project but also highlight the growing demand for digital self-service options among tenants.

Expanding the Digital Frontier

Home Group, another notable player in the housing sector, has also embraced digital transformation with Mediaworks’ assistance. By improving online search capabilities and transaction processes, Home Group has significantly reduced Recurring inquiry tasks, freeing up resource for those in greatest need. Their new digital experience, informed by customer focus groups and featuring personalised content, has led to a remarkable 486% increase in online interactions with the repairs section of their website.

Looking Ahead

These transformations by Johnnie Johnson Housing and Home Group are not isolated successes but part of a broader movement towards digitalisation in the housing sector. Mediaworks have partnered with several housing associations, through the Northern Housing Consortium, including Bernicia Homes, Ongo Homes and Salix Homes, helping them transform their digital experiences.

By putting customer experience first and leveraging digital technologies, housing associations can enhance service delivery, improve operational efficiencies, and meet the evolving needs of their tenants.

The journey of digital transformation in the housing sector is a testament to the power of innovation and collaboration. As housing associations continue to navigate the digital landscape, their efforts will undoubtedly shape a more connected, efficient, and tenant-centric future.

This article provides a concise overview of the digital transformation initiatives undertaken by Johnnie Johnson Housing and Home Group, illustrating the significant benefits of embracing digital technologies in the housing sector.

For more information visit https://www.mediaworks.co.uk

How Valuations could assist Balance the Decarbonisation Investment Cost

There is an increasing amount of pressure from funders within the sector, for the valuation of securitised portfolios to include the associated costs of decarbonisation works. Whilst the Government’s most recent messaging on EPC and Net-Zero targets may have softened, we can be assured the sector will not overlook the importance and the need for more energy efficient homes and the benefits they provide the communities they serve. As a consequence, and rightly so, this investment is a necessity and one which will continue, with all actions focussed upon providing the best homes possible.

There is no getting around the fact that the level of capital expenditure required to fund decarbonisation, creates a significant challenge and putting these costs into valuations takes a huge amount of value out, however with some changes to loan security requirements, there may well be a part solution we can explore.

As Valuers, JLL are currently urging funders to adopt a ‘lotting’ approach to loan security valuations to help the sector’s stock decarbonisation efforts. ‘Lotting’ involves the allocation of different properties into groups according to factors such as tenure, size and geography, as well as other portfolio characteristics.

This is by no means a new approach to assessing value; it has been used in stock rationalisation sales for the past two decades as a means to generate demand. In turn this can often drive more value, by opening up sales to a wider audience and parties who may not necessarily be in a position to acquire an entire portfolio. It assumes the ability to purchase individual lots and is conducted with the support of a direct evidence base from previous market transactions.

Although this approach is adopted under commercial lending, for loan security valuations in social housing finance, valuers have not been permitted to use ‘lotting’. Funders currently instruct on a restricted basis of valuing units in a single hypothetical portfolio.

We would argue that the current restrictions are not maximising value, as it does not truly reflect how a lender would actually realise its security if there were a default. The value of ‘lotting’ is making valuations a truer reflection of the market into which the security would be sold. To provide some context, if valuing 1,000 units for loan security, we are currently assuming a single hypothetical transaction rather than four lots of, say, 250 units each, which is not how the market generally trades.

If funders were to allow valuers to overlay how the market actually operates, in most cases, albeit not all, you should be able to produce a higher value that is more reflective of how security would be realised. This additional value would then allow us to deal with a large part of the decarbonisation problem and its impact upon portfolio values.

JLL is actively lobbying the sector via various forums, providing the supporting modelling to demonstrate the positive impact ‘lotting’ can provide in meeting some of the current investment
challenges. As with anything new to the sector, it is an evolving conversation, but if anyone would be interested in finding out more, we would very much welcome the opportunity to share the discussion.

Richard Houghton – JLL Affordable Housing Valuation North

How social housing boosts our economy – Hays Guest Blog

As homelessness numbers soar and rent prices are ever-increasing, the importance of social housing is more apparent than ever. Currently, almost one-fifth (17%) of households in England live in social housing; that’s four million households. However, a further 1.2 million are still on the waiting list.

New laws point to better living conditions for people in social housing, but how will advancements in the quality – and potentially quantity – of these properties create more jobs, increase social mobility, and have a positive impact on our economy?

Changes for the better

Developments in recent months have seen the Social Housing (Regulation) Act – which aims to support tenants living in unsafe homes and hold inadequate landlords accountable for such conditions – became an enforceable law. This will greatly improve the quality of life for many social housing residents, as new powers have been given to the Regulator of Social Housing and the Housing Ombudsman; landlords may now be issued unlimited fines, strict time limits can be set to address unsafe living environments, and social housing managers have new qualification requirements.

Aside from the obvious benefits of improving quality of life and safety, these new regulations will also bring economic advantages, due to the increased level of management now required for these homes. In fact, housing associations and local authorities’ management of properties in England already adds around 12.7 billion to the economy and supports over 200,000 jobs; this figure will likely rise as a result of the more stringent requirements.

Social housing can reduce unemployment  

People in social housing may be facing challenging personal or financial situations, which can act as barriers to employment. But social housing providers can offer valuable services such as support with job hunting, access to training, skills development and funding. Reducing unemployment can bolster economic growth, due to a decrease in benefits payments, among other secondary economic pressures that come from high levels of unemployment.

Increased social housing construction offers ample job opportunities for construction workers. Between 2016-2023, an impressive 140,000 construction jobs were created as a result of a record number of new affordable housing in London. However, the ratio of new social housing in comparison to other builds is decreasing.

Job opportunities within social housing

Social housing generates a variety of job opportunities within communities. Besides construction workers, here are some other positions required in the social housing industry:

  • Housing officers oversee properties on behalf of housing associations and local authorities. Responsibilities include assessing the needs of housing applicants and inspecting properties.
  • Property upkeep roles – such as damp and mould surveyor, fire prevention, retrofit, and backlog maintenance – as homes need to be kept in working order and free of hazards.
  • Countless other jobs, including tenant advice, income recovery, leasehold officer, and project worker.

Future social housing growth is uncertain

With the general election approaching in just over a year’s time, the outlook for social housing growth is still up in the air, as social housing policies vary heavily between political parties. One thing for certain is that increasing social housing would have a positive impact on our economy, something that is more important than ever as the nation battles turbulent waters and shoulders the strain of the cost-of-living crisis.

Hays is working in partnership with Band of Builders to support the wellbeing and mental health of construction workers. We’re also proud work with The Retrofit Academy, supporting their mission of driving retrofit skills and knowledge.

Recruiting for your team or organisation? Then register your vacancy with us today.

Summit Sponsor Blog – Locata

Locata offer a suite of web-based Housing Software products all with the unique selling point of being highly configurable, allowing our clients to build the system to their own needs. We’re a not-for-profit company owned by Local Authorities and RSLs, originally developing our Choice Based Lettings Module for these partners. Since our founding we’ve expanded our product offering significantly, now covering the full-service spectrum, including Allocations, Homelessness, Housing Standards, Housing Management and much more.

Summit Sponsor Blog – Campbell Tickell

New consumer standards for social housing in England: a brave new world, or business as usual? The truth, as so often, lies probably somewhere inbetween.


The Social Housing (Regulation) Act 2023 will drive some considerable change in regulation from April 2024, but it isn’t wholesale change.

Let’s start by being clear: there’s very little change as far as economic regulation goes. The Regulator of Social Housing (RSH) remains concerned to ensure that registered providers (RPs) comply with the governance and financial viability, value for money and rent standards (where applicable) and will continue to regulate against these standards in much the same way as at present. We’ll see some changes to what it can do if RPs don’t comply, such as the ability to require performance improvement plans, and an enhanced ability to issue fines – but for the most part, we anticipate that economic regulation is going to feel pretty similar to what’s gone before.

It’s a different story when it comes to consumer regulation. The origins of the Act lie, after all, in an understanding that legislating for a somewhat hands-off approach to regulating the quality of homes and services may have played a part in failing to prevent the tragedies at Grenfell Tower and in Rochdale, where Awaab Ishak died. So it’s unsurprising that there is to be a whole new approach to consumer regulation, including the advent of inspections – which it seems will be closely modelled on the approach to In-Depth Assessments (IDAs), but will now cover consumer regulation and extend to local authorities and ALMOs for the first time.

New-style consumer regulation will be underpinned by a new set of regulatory standards, on which consultation closed earlier this month. There are undoubtedly some important changes to these: the introduction of distinct requirements in relation to domestic abuse, for example; raised expectations about how data about homes and tenants should be used to inform investment and service delivery; and more emphasis on diversity than previously.

In our own response to the consumer standards consultation, we welcomed the changes. We drew attention, too, to areas where we thought the drafting could potentially have gone further, reaching for more substantial change: for example, in relation to sustainability and environmental considerations; to safeguarding; and to tenant involvement. We questioned why there should be no specific expectations in relation to fairness and respect, given their pivotal significance, and we suggested that the standards are rather quiet about the problems caused to tenants by nuisance where it stops short of posing a safety risk, but nonetheless impacts significantly on quality of life.

But we know that the consumer standards represent a set of high-level outcomes which can’t possibly cover everything, and are intended to represent fundamental, baseline expectations of what a social housing provider should deliver. And while understanding of what represents good practice moves on over time, the outcomes social housing is intended to achieve arguably haven’t changed that much. So it shouldn’t be a surprise that for the most part, the content of the new standards is familiar, drawing heavily on the previous set, albeit the bar has been raised where this was felt uncontrovertibly to be needed.

But in any case, if reshaping of regulation is going to drive changes in the sector in the way that politicians have intended, it probably isn’t going to be through the standards themselves (although the changes will doubtlessly focus attention in a helpful way). Rather it is the removal of the serious detriment bar (which prevented the RSH getting much involved unless there was a serious risk to tenants), the introduction of inspection and the advent of a grading for consumer standard compliance which are likely to make RPs sit up and take notice – and the associated depth and rigour with which providers will be expected to assure themselves – and the regulator – that they comply with, and even go beyond, the standards.

Summit Partner Blog – The Coal Authority

At the Coal Authority, we aim to provide expert advice and creative solutions to governments, public bodies, private organisations and landowners to manage the public safety and environmental issues arising from historical coal and metal mining.

In recent years, we have had a big focus on innovation, particularly in relation to our mine water heat schemes – where we’ve been looking at how we can create green energy from water that has been collected within former mines.

The initiative is now a proven success as we have just celebrated 6 months of the nation’s first large-scale network operating successfully and we’re keen for more of these projects to be rolled out across the former coalfields.

It took just three years for the ground-breaking energy project in Gateshead to go from first concept meeting to full operation on 29 March 2023.  It is now one of the largest in Europe and has been providing hot water and heat to hundreds of homes and businesses for six months now. It uses existing technology to supply secure, stable-priced heat, replacing the gas engines that used to heat the network.

This is a major step forward in the mission to decarbonise heat and a real-world example of how former mining communities could benefit from using the historical industrial coal mining infrastructure to create an eco-friendly future.

The innovative project is helping to combat climate change and achieve net zero aims by tapping into the potential of water-filled, disused coal workings underground. It harnesses geothermal energy from mine water to generate localised, secure, low-carbon heat, replacing the function of traditional boiler systems.

Work on the underground mines required by the scheme was supported by the Coal Authority as we own and manage the disused coal-mining infrastructure on behalf of the British Government. We also have a team of dedicated specialists who have been researching the potential for recovering low-carbon heat from disused coal mining infrastructure for several years. We are proud to have supported the Gateshead Energy Company project throughout and believe it demonstrates how similar networks could benefit other coalfield communities across Great Britain.

Train People, Generate Ideas, Reduce Carbon Emissions

As the world grapples with the urgent need to address climate change, it is crucial for all sectors to play their part in transitioning to a sustainable future. Social housing providers have a unique opportunity to lead the way in reducing carbon emissions while also addressing the issues associated with social and economic inequalities in Britain. The Carbon Literacy Toolkit for Social Housing presents an invaluable resource to empower and educate stakeholders, enabling them to take meaningful action towards a greener, more sustainable future. As global greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise, there is an imperative for organisations and communities everywhere to take control of the emissions over which they have influence. Those of us without the political clout of public office or presence at international conferences might feel powerless to do anything about climate change. But we can choose a different path, we just need to know how.

The Carbon Literacy Project has been supporting workplaces in creating the time and space to talk about climate change and its solutions for over 10 years. Training materials are designed to frame climate change conversations through lenses that are relevant to the organisation and the local area; a collection of 17 housing associations across Greater Manchester realised that their materials might look rather similar. They jointly funded the development of a Carbon Literacy training programme that coordinated their training efforts and low-carbon actions. This was the precursor to the Carbon Literacy Toolkit for Social Housing.

The Social Housing Toolkit is a comprehensive and user-friendly resource designed to enhance the understanding of climate change, its impacts, and the measures required to mitigate its effects within the context of social housing. Developed with and for social housing providers, the Toolkit provides a systematic approach to building Carbon Literacy among staff and tenants, as well as other key stakeholders.

The Toolkit was shortlisted for the Unlock Net Zero Awards 2023. It was fantastic to see that so many of the winners this year are organisations that train their staff in Carbon Literacy to aid their low-carbon ambitions. One of the strengths of the Social Housing Toolkit is its ability to empower staff and tenants within the social housing sector. By equipping them with the knowledge and skills necessary to tackle climate change, the Toolkit fosters a sense of responsibility and encourages collective action. This, in turn, can lead to a range of benefits, including improved engagement, enhanced reputation, and reduced operational costs.

The Toolkit provides a wealth of educational resources, including training materials and case studies. Its interactive delivery style is designed to raise awareness and deepen understanding through learning with and from everyone in the room. By increasing Carbon Literacy, social housing providers can empower their employees to make more low-carbon choices in their roles within the organization and in their own lives too. Such knowledge can inspire innovative solutions and foster a culture of sustainability within the workplace. Whether at the beginning of your sustainability transition, or trying to put robust policy into action, the Carbon Literacy Toolkit is an impactful means to realise excellent results.

The adoption of sustainable practices is not only beneficial for the environment but carries with it a wealth of other benefits. The Social Housing Toolkit assists social housing providers in identifying energy-saving opportunities and implementing measures to reduce energy consumption and associated costs. By promoting energy efficiency and encouraging the use of renewable energy sources, providers can significantly reduce their carbon footprint while simultaneously lowering operational expenses. Better efficiency and lower bills allow householders to live comfortable, healthy lives in their homes.

In an era defined by the urgent need for climate action, social housing providers (and their supply chains) have an incredible opportunity to drive change and create a sustainable future. The Carbon Literacy Toolkit for Social Housing equips staff, tenants, and stakeholders with the knowledge and tools necessary to make informed decisions and take effective action towards a greener and more sustainable social housing sector that provides safe, decent, affordable homes now and into the future. Those that embrace this powerful resource can strive for a brighter, carbon-conscious world.

If you would like to use Carbon Literacy training to enhance your transition to net-zero carbon emissions, contact us via email at housing@carbonliteracy.com.

Locata – Predictive model for assessing future TA need

Councils can now estimate the size and cost of their future Temporary Accommodation (TA) need using a predictive model developed by Andy Gale, one of the country’s leading homelessness experts.

It is designed to help housing managers make the case for additional budget or capital resources to help purchase lower-cost TA.

This is particularly important given the current economic downturn and cost of living crisis, with some commentators claiming that we are “facing a tsunami of homelessness”.

The free predictive model is available for download from the Locata website, by clicking this link.

The model establishes a “baseline position” allowing a council to record the numbers in TA and then breaks it down by each reason for a TA placement.

If the exercise is conducted at the end of March actual figures can be used.

Each reason for a TA placement is examined with guidance on whether TA placements are likely to rise, or remain the same, or fall.

Officers then input their own estimate for the impact on TA for each cause of a TA placement, allowing an accurate estimate of the council’s additional TA need.

The predicted figure can then be checked against the national trend as data emerges from Government published HCLIC statistics, which are normally published six months behind.

The model then helps estimate the potential cost of these additional TA placements if the only alternative TA options available to a council are either B&B or nightly rate TA. These two types of TA are the most expensive options available to a council.

Once the predictive model has been completed, managers will be able to make the case for:

  • Additional budget
  • Capital resources to buy lower-cost TA
  • Other interventions such as increasing the percentage of social housing properties targeted at households in TA
  • Or a combination of all of the above

Double appointment for Ward Hadaway’s Built Environment Team

Law firm Ward Hadaway has appointed two new solicitors who have joined the firm’s growing Built Environment Team in Newcastle.

Based at the firm’s Quayside office in the city centre, the appointments of Philippa Jones and Victoria Chatterton, joining from their previous firms have further strengthened the construction and engineering team, supporting their growing client base across the North East and further afield.

Philippa joins as an Associate solicitor and will be responsible for a wide range of contentious and non-contentious construction and engineering matters. She joins from her previous firm where she worked as an Associate and has over five years working within construction law.

She particularly focuses on major infrastructure projects and will act for a wide variety of construction and engineering clients including contractors, developers, employers, subcontractors, consultants, procurement specialists and Local Authorities.

Commenting on her appointment, Philippa, said: “Ward Hadaway has a great reputation in the region with an impressive client roster and collegiate atmosphere. I’m looking forward to building my construction practice throughout the region by supporting local major infrastructure projects in addition to national clients. I am delighted to have joined this expanding team at such an exciting time.”

Victoria has also been appointed to the same team and joins the firm as a solicitor. She is acting for a variety of construction and engineering clients in drafting, reviewing and negotiating consultancy appointments, collateral warranties and standard contracts working from project inception.

Victoria is a member of the Women’s Lawyer Division and Women in Construction forums. Commenting on her appointment, she said: “I’m really enjoying my new role and it’s an exciting time to be joining this growing team. Ward Hadaway has a great reputation and is one of the leading law firms in the north so I am grateful to be able to apply my knowledge and experience with construction clients across the region.”

Paul Reekie, a Partner and Head the firm’s construction and engineering service, said: “This is a really exciting time as we continue to strengthen our Built Environment Team to support our growing client base. Our priority is to attract and recruit high-calibre solicitors to ensure we can provide an all-encompassing service for our clients across many specialisms.

“In the last three months alone, we have made six significant appointments within the team across all three of our regions and I’m confident Philippa and Victoria will complement and add value to our existing relationships with our clients. I’m looking forward to working with them both.”

New appointments: Solicitors Philippa Jones (left) and Victoria Chatterton have both joined Ward Hadaway’s growing Built Environment Team.

New Locata Lettings system on show for first time

Locata’s National Users Group (NUG) saw the first demonstration of the new Lettings system at its Autumn meeting.

The development work on the new module for the Locata Pro Platform, which is designed to be a replacement product for our current Choice Based Lettings product, has been undertaken by Locata’s strategic partner, Sector, throughout 2022.

Sector’s Luke Hatfield explained that the new Lettings system is not completely built yet, but already looks “much more modern, clean and fresh.”

“Over the last couple of months we have focused on the property shortlisting cycles and being able to set up a property, advertise that property and then pushing it through into a shortlist and then working that shortlist,” he said. “We are now trying to finish that process and get it into test.”

Luke showed how the new system offers the user much more control – for instance, allowing property fields to be configured by the officer.

It also introduces the concept of an “Advert Instance”, where a new advert is created automatically whenever a property is being prepared to be advertised.

“The idea is that you will have a history of the property each time it is advertised.” said Luke. “Currently you have to over-write the current advert with new information, such as hand over dates, and you lose that history, although it is in the audit trail.”

Other new functionalities include a cropping tool for photos and configurable fields and rules on the property wizard meaning you can build your own property wizard as simple or as complex as you like.

We expect the new Lettings system to be fully built and ready for you to use from April 2023 onwards.

To find out more about the new Lettings system, including links to a recording of Luke’s demo, please click here.

Or, alternatively, come and meet us at our stand at the rescheduled NHC Northern Housing Summit on Tuesday, January 17, 2023 in Manchester. We would be delighted to have a chat with you.

Sector’s Luke Hatfield delivering the first public demo of the new Lettings system at the virtual NUG


Locata progresses to G-Cloud 13

Locata has been successful in applying to join the Crown Commercial Services latest iteration of its digital marketplace – G-Cloud 13.

The latest version of the G-Cloud framework went live last month and offers the very latest cloud technology and digital support to organisations across the public sector.

This means that Locata continues to be an official Crown Commercial Service supplier and our products and services can be bought by local authorities through the Digital Marketplace without needing to go through a full tender process.

Public sector organisations that buy services through the Digital Marketplace save significant time and money as the process is faster and cheaper than entering into individual procurement contracts.

You can find out more about G-Cloud 13 and the digital marketplace here.