5 ways housing providers are using technology to help vulnerable tenants
Technology has become a part of most people’s lives. From smartphones, smart speakers and virtual assistants to smart meters and thermostats; technology has infiltrated every part of modern life.
Social housing has not been left out, in fact, technology is improving lives, and ensuring the wellbeing of vulnerable tenants.
1. Fire Safety
Since the disaster at Grenfell Tower, fire safety in social housing has had a renewed sense of importance. During the inquiry into the disaster, lawyers said that the fire was a landmark act of discrimination against disabled and vulnerable individuals.
Social housing providers are using technology to improve fire safety in homes across their portfolios; both in high rises and residential homes.
FireAngel provides smart smoke detectors to social housing. These devices ensure vulnerable tenants are safeguarded against the risk of fire through a series of interlinked ancillary devices. When one interlinked alarm is triggered, all other alarms and ancillary devices are activated, alerting those who are vulnerable or hearing impaired to become aware of the fire more quickly.
Recently, social housing provider WHG has been commended by Dame Judith Hackitt for its ground-breaking building safety work. The housing association has been singled out in a report by the Industry Standards Steering Group on the progress of culture change in the built environment industry. The report praised the housing provider for developing an app that generates 3D models of high-rise buildings that can be provided to fire services and residents. The app has also been given the seal of approval by the West Midlands Fire Service who said that it would save them time in assessing incidents and help make early decisions.
2. Energy Usage and Fuel Poverty
With energy bills getting more expensive, social housing providers can use technology to understand how their tenants are using their heating and identify issues that could require additional support.
BT have highlighted in a report how that by using smart meters, patterns of energy use can be identified and if there is a drastic change to these patterns there may be a wellbeing issue.
For instance, if the evening routine usually contains an energy use spike at 7 pm because someone is using the kettle, then when this does not happen it can indicate something is wrong and help can be alerted.
Using Vericon System’s BCM and MultiDOT, the boiler use and environmental conditions inside a property can be remotely monitored. The data collected can be used to identify if an individual is struggling or in fuel poverty. By understanding when a boiler is used, for how long and its set point, the initial indicators can be seen. From here environmental monitoring, using MultiDOT, can show if a singular room is being heated. This data combined can show a possible instance of fuel poverty.
3. Damp and Mould
Temperature and humidity sensors
BCM and MultiDOT don’t just show if a tenant is at risk of fuel poverty, the data can also show if a property is at risk of damp and mould. Understanding a property’s temperature and humidity allows landlords to put appropriate measures in place to reduce the risk.
Identifying the causes of damp and mould is difficult, but humidity is a key factor. Humidity can be influenced by three factors:
· Customer Activity.
· Failing building infrastructure.
· Highly efficient building insulation upgrades without the corresponding ventilation upgrades.
Mould likes warm and humid conditions to grow and spread.
Mould thrives in the following conditions:
· Humidity levels above 60%.
· Temperatures between 15 and 25 degrees.
Mould spores will begin to grow rapidly 24 to 48 hours after these conditions occur. As this temperature is the average comfort setting for houses in the UK, managing the humidity is the only option when tackling damp and mould issues.
4. Building practices
Housing providers are taking steps to ensure homes, both new and old, are energy efficient and fit for habitation using technology.
Retrofitting homes to make them more energy efficient is not a new idea, but as a result of the Each Home Counts review, PAS2035 was introduced.
The introduction of modular extensions to properties is one council’s way of improving living conditions so that elderly and disabled residents are able to stay in their homes for longer.
The modular additions to buildings can be moved from one property to another if a tenant’s needs change or they pass away, ensuring that the investment is worthwhile and sustainable.
5. Women’s health and safety
Winner Housing are not your typical social housing provider. They manage a mix of emergency, supported and general needs housing for women fleeing domestic abuse. Tenants can be in some of the hardest times of their lives as they try and cope with traumatic events. Due to this a majority do not have technology such as phones or laptops, making tenant-landlord communication difficult.
The Alertacall Service is provided to tenants to ensure that communication can be maintained as well as maintenance issues reported and dealt with. Tenants are given a portable touchscreen device, with an any network 4G SIM card meaning that Wi-Fi is not required. The device allows tenants to access news, updates, and other important information. If tenants do not interact with the Alertacall service, a highly trained team member will be in touch.