The future of social housing in the UK is in the spotlight at the moment, having experienced significant disruption and challenges in recent years. Ongoing political and economic uncertainty has been a major contributor, while the COVID-19 pandemic accelerated many trends and changes.
It’s now more important than ever to understand what the UK’s social housing sector might look like in the future. How it evolves will have a big impact on communities across the country, which is why we’ll explore some of the main industry disruptors moving forward.
Increased demand for affordable housing
The demand for affordable housing has grown significantly in recent years. The aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic, an ongoing cost of living crisis and a seemingly unsustainable continued rise in property prices have meant that more people are struggling to secure affordable housing.
There is no sign of this trend slowing, which means that social housing is likely to play a major role in helping UK residents afford adequate housing – helping those on the lowest incomes. Without social housing, millions of people will be living in unaffordable homes and homelessness is likely to increase.
With the private rental sector bursting at the seams, it’s important that social housing steps up to the plate.
Ageing population and migration
Another important consideration is the impact an ageing population and migration will have on social housing. It’s not always the case, but these two demographics are likely to be hit hard by rising costs and unaffordable housing, so it’s important that they’re looked after and catered for.
As a society we are now living longer, which means social housing can provide a lifeline to older people who aren’t comfortable financially. Similarly, social housing offers migrants a chance to affordably live in the UK when they first arrive, making the transition to a new country and home more manageable.
If we continue to live longer and migration carries on rising, the demand for social housing is likely to soar.
Technological advances and developments
Technology is already having a massive impact on the social housing sector and this is only going to continue on this trajectory in the future. Digital services and software, smart homes and more tech-savvy tenants have all led to social housing associations having to raise their game to avoid being left behind.
We have already seen a big shift in how property maintenance is delivered – using cloud-based software and mobile applications – and technology will continue to impact how tenants and social housing associations interact.
In order to stay ahead of the curve, social housing executives will need to embrace future technological advancements and ensure they’re offering tenants the best possible service in keeping with the latest tech developments.
A greater focus on tenant rights
Policies, such as the Tenant Satisfaction Measures (TSM) Standard, are regularly being introduced to ensure tenants have a greater voice and that social housing providers are held accountable for poor housing standards. The TSM requires all registered providers of social housing to collect and report annually on their performance.
An improvement in tenants’ rights is a big step forward for the social housing sector, which will carry on building momentum in the years to come. Incidents like the horrendous death of Awaab Ishak must be prevented from ever happening again, so social housing providers need to be prepared for increased scrutiny and monitoring.
Sustainability initiatives and climate change measures
Last, but by no means least, the ongoing impact of climate change is going to continue shaping social housing. The sector will become even more focused on reducing energy consumption, promoting sustainability and using renewable energy sources.
For example, many associations will need to pay for extensive retrofitting in homes and upgrade heating systems that aren’t reliant on gas. In doing so, they’ll need to be mindful of balancing the positive impact it has on the environment and affordability for tenants.
Moving forward, it’s important that the social housing sector recognises the role it plays in helping to create a greener future and honours its commitment to improving sustainability standards.
It’s likely there will be a range of other trends that have a huge impact on social housing in the UK, but the areas we’ve discussed in this article are probably the main disruptors. These trends will evolve gradually over time, so it’s vital that social housing associations keep pace with changes and adapt accordingly.
The aim moving forward should be to continue delivering innovative and effective solutions for tenants, so everybody in the UK has access to affordable, adequate housing.