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What next for housing repairs and maintenance?

Social housing providers have been feeling the pressure in a tough financial climate; we’ve seen new ideas and new ways of working being introduced, and the increased need to make savings across the board - including in the delivery of repairs and maintenance.

While for some providers taking these services in-house has proved successful, there are many issues which similar organisations must consider before taking a ‘one size fits all’ approach to meeting budgets in this way.

Each social housing provider varies in its profile and therefore in its needs - and this is the main reason why an in-house service sometimes simply wouldn’t be suitable for some. Geographical spread and diverse customer groups mean there has to be a range of solutions rather than just one and this is why contractors are so valuable.

“There has to be a range of solutions rather than just one and this is why contractors are so valuable”

If a housing provider introduces an in-house repairs and maintenance team, savings are likely to be made in the short-term, yes, but this is mainly down to changes in the process of delivery and administration, along with VAT cuts.

This in-house approach may not be a long-term benefit, though – especially to smaller housing providers, who may struggle under their new-found responsibilities.

If you consider additional costs over a longer period of time, such as staff training, technology upgrades and other responsibilities including insurance, budgets could be much tighter than first thought.

One alternative would be to move over to a ‘price per property’ contract with a service provider such as Novus.

This would ensure the housing provider pays a fixed cost in relation to its size, and repairs can be carried out on an agreed number of properties under this agreement at any time. This changes processes and so reduces costs, which therefore secures the same savings as an in-house service.

This approach also ensures the impact of outgoings for training, and so on, will be absorbed by the contractor and its group of clients, rather than met by just the one organisation. 

“Each social housing provider needs a bespoke solution in order to provide the best service possible for its customers”

Another option for smaller housing associations is to employ local handymen to complete repairs, but then use a contractor to manage those workers, communicate with them and to provide repairs which individuals may not be able to fulfil.

The answer, however, isn’t as simple as A, B, C or D as each social housing provider needs a bespoke solution in order to provide the best service possible for its customers.

The key is to create a service that meets a social housing provider’s own needs first, taking into account  all the factors and options available to it, rather than doing it one way just because fellow providers do.

Peter Hordley is head of client services at contractor Novus Property Solutions

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