- March 25, 2020
- Posted by: Zina Smith
- Category: CT Blog, CT News
Flexibility, collaboration and communication are central to how housing sector chief executives are tackling the effects of the widening COVID-19 pandemic.
A digest of the issues discussed in a CEOs WhatsApp group, set up last week by us, reveal that widespread home working where possible, or using split teams, has become the norm. Meanwhile essential repairs are being prioritised, as housing organisations address financial uncertainty and the importance of cash holdings.
So far around 140 housing association and ALMO chief executives from across the UK are taking part in this WhatsApp group.
While the discussions are confidential, group members agreed that the digest should be issued more widely, in order that others can learn and share their own experiences.
Other critical areas highlighted include:
- New allocations commonly coming from council homelessness lists, alongside the need for emergency accommodation for healthcare workers
- The difficulties of carrying out gas servicing and compliance work, with some residents refusing entry by contractors and some contractors unwilling to enter properties without assurance
- Insufficient maintenance contractors and supplies
- Major problems with sourcing PPE (personal protective equipment)
- Mental health and wellbeing of staff and residents
- Joint working with councils on supporting vulnerable people
- Concerns over rent collection especially from tenants not currently in receipt of benefits
- Reducing housing development, to avoid costly commitments and with the wind-down by contractors
- The effect of the pandemic on housing sales programmes
To help manage the new environment, housing providers are getting used to virtual Board meetings, and in many cases streamlining decision-making to enable rapid actions where needed.
At the same time, CEOs are looking to the future and innovative approaches:
- Advanced technology to support more remote working, moving away from office bases while reducing business travel
- Closer joint working with NHS and social care
- Looking at how to support people who are lonely and isolated
- Opportunities to pool resources between housing providers and councils
- Greater focus on community
- Lower operating costs and new prioritisations of services
Peabody CEO Brendan Sarsfield said:
We are all in this challenging situation together. Now more than ever, we need to share ideas and good practice. This group has been an excellent example of housing providers seeing how we can maximise our effectiveness and contribution to the whole country’s efforts to beat the virus.