Coronavirus in the social housing sector

How has coronavirus affected the social housing sector?

How has the coronavirus pandemic affected the social housing sector? In our annual Health of the Sector survey, we asked 104 industry leaders how their operations and residents have been impacted.

Here’s what they told us about the pandemic’s effects, and how they’re responding. 

What impact is the coronavirus having on your organisation? 

What impact is the coronavirus having on your social housing organisation? 

Almost all respondents said technology has been crucial during the pandemic, and two thirds said the wellbeing of their staff has suffered. 

For social housing specifically, almost two thirds have seen a rise in rent arrears and empty properties due to the coronavirus – a sobering reminder of the pandemic’s effect on families and livelihoods across the country. 

Do you think the service to your residents has been impacted by the coronavirus?

Do you think the service to your social housing residents has been impacted by the coronavirus?

As we’ll see below, many social housing organisations in England feel the coronavirus has had a negative impact on their value-for-money (VfM) efforts. This is felt by residents in the service they receive, with delayed repairs and communication problems becoming increasingly common. 

But any organisations have adapted well to remote working, using new digital technologies to serve residents from afar – in many cases more quickly and efficiently than before. 

So, while 93 per cent of respondents feel resident services have been impacted, we shouldn’t assume the impact has been universally negative.

Three quarters of all respondents said they haven’t deprioritised VfM initiatives to focus on responding to the coronavirus. This is encouraging news, although the fact that 23 per cent said they have is a slight cause for concern. 

Compliance with the VfM Standard is mandatory for all registered providers in England, and boards that are struggling should refocus in 2021 to avoid falling behind. We’ve seen good progress in attitudes towards VfM this year, and it would be a shame to lose this momentum because of this uniquely difficult environment. 

Has the VfM Standard taken a backseat on your agenda as a need to respond to the coronavirus?

Has the VfM Standard taken a backseat on your social housing agenda as a need to respond to the coronavirus?

What effect has the coronavirus had on your VfM achievements in the last 12 months? 

What effect has the coronavirus had on your VfM achievements in the last 12 months?

While VfM has remained a priority for most throughout the pandemic, almost half of all respondents said the coronavirus has had a negative effect on their VfM achievements. 

This is to be expected. Repair works, for example, will have been hampered by social distancing measures. And while increased surpluses across many general needs providers in the sector can be seen as a positive in VfM terms, a lower standard of service for residents is a negative whichever way you look at it. 

What direct actions are you taking as a response to coronavirus?
What direct actions are you taking as a result of coronavirus?
What direct actions are you taking as a result of coronavirus?

Businesses across the country were forced to adjust their plans and budgets in light of the pandemic. So, it’s no surprise that 82 per cent of social housing organisations have too. If anything, we expected this figure to be closer to 100 per cent, given the scale of the disruption we’ve endured. 

There’s also further evidence in these figures of the sector’s adoption of digital technology and remote working – something 71 per cent of respondents expect to continue beyond the pandemic. 

But perhaps the most significant practical impact here on residents is that two thirds are noting delays to their repairs programmes. This won’t come as a surprise and to the Housing Minister, whose letter to social housing residents in England in May 2020 made it clear landlords should be carrying out both routine and essential repairs. This followed three months when only emergency repairs were completed for many across the sector. 

Contact us for support and advice

 Keith Ward

Our social housing specialists can help you and your board tackle the coronavirus-related threats to your organisation. 

Contact Keith Ward, our Head of Social Housing, to discuss your situation. 


Get more insight from our 2021 survey

Want to know more about how the social housing sector has fared over the last 12 months? Interested in what social housing organisations have got planned for the months ahead?

Read the next articles in this series for a snapshot of the health of the sector in 2021:

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What governance challenges are social housing leaders facing in 2021?
See what social housing boards have got planned for staff salaries, pensions contributions, rent increases, and more.

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