The smart way to save money in social housing
04 October 2017
Are advances in building products the answer to maximising cost efficiencies in the social housing sector?
The social housing market is undergoing significant change, and the use of innovative products can help the social housing sector deliver a better quality home and provide savings at the same time
Until April, social landlords were able to increase their rents by inflation plus 1 per cent a year. From April they will have to cut them by 1 per cent a year for the next four years. This and other changes to housing benefit will have a profound impact on their business plans and put even more of a premium on achieving cost savings elsewhere.
Certainly one area of concentration will be repair and maintenance, with savvy providers looking at ways of extending maintenance cycles and reducing the whole life cost of its housing stock. Fortunately, technological advancements within building products may hold the solution and pave the way for a system that is beneficial to both tenant and landlord.
A raft of government policy has led to social landlords witnessing a higher turnover of tenants, with changes to tenancy agreements, spending reviews and emphasis on ownership schemes. This increases the risk of lengthy re-let times, voids and making the need to offer higher quality homes and service to tenants even greater. To achieve this many landlords have been spending more than ever on repair, maintenance and improvement (RMI), in fact, a study by Inside Housing earlier this year found the spend passed £2.5 billion for the first time in 2014/15 – an increase of 2.2 per cent on 2013/14 and 6.7 per cent on the year before that.
Key to managing this spend is looking at ways of extending maintenance cycles. In areas such as exterior painting, for example, it’s long been recognised that choosing higher quality, more durable products in the first instance will reduce costs further down the line. And now, this same principle is being applied to the construction and maintenance of interior walls, with our new plasterboard Gyproc Habito ideal for increasing the time period between repairs.
Five times stronger than standard plasterboard, not only does this benefit the housing provider by having to do less repairs to walls but it gives the tenant greater flexibility in making the property feel more like their own home. With no need for rawl plugs or specialist fixings – DIY tasks, hanging heavy items such as TV’s & bookcases or adapting rooms for different purposes become a breeze for the tenant. Newham Borough Council is a great example of how using Gyproc Habito plasterboard in a new build development has helped them improve the quality of their homes and save money on maintenance and repair costs.
Similarly, our ThistlePro DuraFinish is ideal for high traffic areas and is 60% more durable than standard plaster. Making it more resistant to everyday wear and tear than traditional plaster, reducing the amount of maintenance call outs and saving landlords money.
When it comes to repair and maintenance, much product development has focused on reducing labour time, without compromising on quality.
For patching and repair jobs, such as filling holes around window and door replacements, shorter set undercoat plasters are ideal. Thistle Bonding 60 offers a consistent 60 minute set time that allows patching and repair to be completed in half the time compared to standard plasters, allowing landlords to redecorate within a couple of days.
We’re working with social landlords and direct labour organisations to help reduce maintenance requirements and create greater cost efficiencies. The role products can play in making landlords life easier has never been greater and we’re seeing real success with a number of partners. Read more about our recent work here and here.