Early Detection: Meeting the Decent Home Standards for Social Housing Through IntechIoT
When John F. Kennedy said that the time for repairing the roof was “when the sun is shining,” he was referring to the US economy rather than home improvement. But you don’t need to reside in the White House to know that investing in bricks and mortar assets during the good times in readiness for those inevitable rainy days is good economics.
For social housing providers, this means identifying problems in the properties that they are responsible for and fixing them in a cost-efficient way before things escalate and the health and safety of tenants are threatened. Technologies linked to the Internet of Things (IoT) are rapidly changing how providers approach this challenge. But I’ll come to this in a moment.
The Government’s Decent Homes Standard provides a framework for maintaining properties to ensure that they are suitable for habitation. Social housing providers will be familiar with the Housing Health and Safety Rating System (HHSRS), which assesses 29 hazards – ranging from damp and mould and excess cold or heat; to carbon monoxide, noise and electrical hazards – and the impact that each may have on tenants’ health and safety.
Category one hazards pose a serious, urgent risk which landlords are compelled to fix immediately, regardless of cost. Landlords have greater discretion about when to address category two hazards, which are less serious. This means not having to fix the roof when it’s raining, enabling planned investment and closer cost management.
But identifying and fixing category two hazards before they escalate requires a working knowledge of conditions behind tenants’ doors. This is where technology can help.
IntechnologySmartCities has developed a service called IntechIoT – Social Housing for social housing providers which deploys IoT sensor technology in properties to identify the early signs of problems. Sensors operate around the clock to identify conditions which are likely to lead to building components falling into disrepair, as well as conditions such as damp and mould, and send alerts to social housing providers.
The costs of employing IntechIoT’s Social Housing sensors are modest compared with the costs of tackling problems when they spin out of control. According to the 2017 English Housing Survey, some 4.5 million homes in England failed to meet the Decent Homes Standard, and the average cost of bringing these buildings to proper standards was £7,211. Improvement costs ranged from an average of £9,991 for homes built before 1919 to an average of £1,209 in homes built after 1990. Regardless of whether their properties are old or new, social housing providers know that they have to cover costs when things go wrong.
There’s also the cost to the public purse. A 2016 report published by the Building Research Establishment (BRE) Trust concluded that the annual cost to the NHS of treating ill-health related to category one hazards was £1.4bn per year. The cost for the NHS of treating illness caused by category two hazards in substandard properties was an additional £428m.
Money is often tight in the social housing sector. But the cost of ignoring category one hazards to the taxpayer and housing providers provides a compelling case for investment in technology. IntechIoT Social Housing offers a suite of services at competitive prices to cater for the differing requirements and budgets of social housing providers. Providers should ask themselves whether they can really afford not to deploy technologies which can help them to fix the roof while the sun shines and before the rain starts.
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