Social value is the “why?” of housing. It’s what we do.
Business mind with a social heart. A lot of housing providers are finding it difficult to balance the books in the current economic climate and some are having to significantly cut their service provision.
It seems an all-to-distant memory now, but only a few years ago the focus was to go “all out” on funding for community projects, resident groups, neighbourhood plans, and tenant led services. Then suddenly it went. The funding dried up and as housing providers, we were left with the unenviable task of explaining to our customers that not only were we having to cut the “nice to have” added value services, but actually we were going to lose a significant amount of our “essential” services too.
How do we operate a business mind with a social heart?
If we reduce housing to bricks & mortar, rents, repairs and relets we ignore our increasingly important role as anchors in our communities.
We are seeing an increasing demand on our services, that once upon a time we were able to pick up. Cuts in Policing, cuts to social care, and the provision of mental health services becoming more and more community based.
Read the report here: Joseph Rowntree Foundation report on the cost of cuts
Where do these people go? Where do they turn?
Well, as they have for many years, they turn to us their landlord… but now we too struggle to help as our budgets decrease and the agencies that we would once signpost too disappear.
I want Kreiga to be more than “just a letting agent”.
We want to be able to bridge the gap, even in just a small way.
Having a very long and successful career in social housing over the last 20 years has given me a passion to make a difference. From working as a front line Housing Officer and seeing people in the darkest times of their lives, to working in legal services, I have seen most things and dealt with extremely complex and – at times – harrowing cases. There have been some fantastic times too, and thankfully they outweighed the bad times and I wanted to bring these experiences with me into the private sector and so Kreiga was born.
A high percentage of our customers experience some form of disadvantage. A home provides shelter, warmth and safety… these are fundamental human needs. By providing homes we could potentially change a persons life. I strongly believe that a person cannot begin to sort out external life issues until they have a place to call home. By providing these homes we are transforming spaces into places, and places into neighbourhoods where people feel a part of a community and thrive.
It makes sound social, economic and business sense for housing providers to be able to understand the impact and the difference that their investment decisions make for their tenants.
The bad news is, that despite what sales people and consultants may try to convince us, we cannot wave a magic wand. Nor is there a “one size fits all” method in measuring the impact of our service or the value in the difference that we make. Many may be interested in trying to place a figure, showing a monetary cost saving for the services they provide. Not me. If i can show that I have made a positive difference to someones life, given them the advice and guidance they need, and spent time ensuring that they are tenancy ready before leaving my office, then I am a happy man.
I do not want to place a tenant in a house, take the money and run. I want to match a customer to a home and offer support when it is needed.
If this means spending an extra hour helping to complete benefit forms then great, if it means simply advising on the local amenities, schools and transport links, that’s great too. If it is a person struggling with personal issues that need signposting, then lets make referrals on their behalf or signpost them to the best agency to help.
Making a customer feel valued, being open honest and transparent from the start and building trust goes a long way to prevent issues later in the tenancy.
Some of you will be thinking by now that I am idealogical, and I don’t blame you. 10 years ago i would have thought that too, but seeing the huge impact that early intervention can have on the landlord and customer relationship has proven to me that building a solid relationship from the start really works and is worth the extra effort.
Of course this all depends on your tenant profile. You may have a strict criteria; the professional, working couple, non smoking, non drinking, pet free ideal. If thats what you require then we can match you to that profile, however, we are all only a couple of pay checks away from being the profile that a lot of landlords look at less favourably.
Take tenants in receipt of benefits for example. A lot of Landlords would run for the hills! Why? Some of my best tenants have been in receipt of benefits. Is it really something that should impact our decision to let a home to a person?
At Kreiga we fully vet all new applicants. We have found that if this process is done thoroughly then the source of income should not really matter. We complete full affordability checks on our applicants, we reference fully, if necessary we will request a guarantor. We make sure all applications for benefits are completed. We compare utility providers and advise accordingly. We change Council tax. We make sure that .we provide all relevant contact details.
When a customer leaves our office all they have to do is move in.
As part of our management package we will conduct tenancy audits on each of our properties and will visit each new customer at 4 weeks, 3 months and 6 months. The 4 week visit will ensure that the tenant has moved in and that all benefits (if applicable) are in payment. It is during this visit that we can ensure everything is running smoothly and gives us a good insight into any potential issues ( for early intervention).
The 3 and 6 month visits will follow a similar format ensuring that all is well.
We will also conduct visual inspections. These involve external unannounced inspections – you would be surprised at what the condition of a garden can say about a tenancy. We can ensure on these visits that there are no issues with upkeep and also no incidents of nuisance.
After this our visits will be quarterly unless otherwise agreed.
So that’s us. Now let’s go back to social profit.
So the “what” of social profit depends entirely on the aspirations and ambitions of each Landlord or agent.
My ambition is to be different, to understand the impact and value that the service of Kreiga provides.
It is not to feedback to boards and investors, because we are independent and free to tailor our services however we choose. Nor is it to feedback to funders or commissioners. It is simply to understand how we make a difference and improve peoples’ experience with us, and to go some way to change the perception of other agents.
If we aren’t able to make sense of the impact we have on peoples lives how can we communicate it to our customers?
How can we effectively position ourselves to seize the development and business opportunities inherent in our role as anchors in our local communities?
Thats it! The vision of my company. I know the idea is not for everyone, and I am by no means wrapping issues up in cotton wool. I am a realist. I have been in court, I have evicted many, I have seen that some people just can’t be helped but for the ones who can, I think its worth a thought.
It’s that simple. It’s that challenging!
Kreiga Property Management – Lettings made simple