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Turning empty properties around faster to re-invest in social housing

There are currently over 238,000 long-term empty homes in England. This number has risen by 20% since 2016, and these properties could be used to house the one million households that are waiting for social housing.

Across England, an average of one in fifty homes are out of use. For some local councils – especially London boroughs and rural areas – this fraction is significantly higher.

Area Homes out of use
City of London 1 in 4
Kensington and Chelsea 1 in 9
Cornwall 1 in 18
Derbyshire Dales 1 in 23
Manchester 1 in 30
Blackpool 1 in 35
Birmingham 1 in 65
Bracknell Forest 1 in 458 - lowest in the country

How many empty homes are there in the UK, The Big Issue

Bringing empty homes back into use is key to tackling the housing crisis, with the renovation of homes also having a significant impact on reaching net zero goals. But moving a new household into a property isn’t straightforward; there are various checks, surveys, and repairs that cause delays.

Social housing providers must ensure inspections are carried out before any new tenants move in, as well as any repairs and renovations. Safety considerations including cladding, asbestos, gas, electrics, fire safety, and community safety all need to be checked, and even once this has all been carried out, organising when to exchange keys can add a few extra days, or even weeks, onto the timeline. With such a high number of empty properties, and a long list of safety inspections, it’s no wonder housing associations struggle to fill empty properties at a fast rate.

Building safety is a high priority for many social housing providers, and with the new Fire Safety Bill, buildings of both high and low risk are now affected by regulations. Multiple risk assessments and inspections are required, and those assessing properties (either an in-house team or third party) require a cloud-based, easy to use platform to record findings. A PowerApp can be used to improve the efficiency of safety assessments, allowing staff to record and submit findings all in one place remotely.

In a similar sense, pre-void inspections can be streamline by using a mobile app and an automatic scheduler. Inspections can be submitted whilst on site so any repairs or renovations can be scheduled straight away to get the ball rolling. By removing any human involvement in the scheduling process, repairs can take place quicker – allowing the property to be filled even quicker.

There’s no point streamlining processes without an effective way of measuring progress. This is where Power BI comes in, which can show voids data reports detailing key metrics, to show the average void times, and why they are shorter/longer. Reporting and analytics are key to improvement, so this stage is a key part of the process.

While turning empty properties around faster helps to house local residents quicker, it also significantly reduces cost for housing associations. By reducing lost rental income, housing providers can gain financially, allowing them to invest in more new properties to provide further housing for residents.

“Each development of 10 affordable homes can create 26 jobs, generate £250k for the government, and provide a £1.4m boost to help level up disadvantaged local economies.” - CPRE

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