Jun 17, 2019 Last Updated 9:54 AM, May 31, 2019

Maximising cost efficiencies in the social housing sector

Published in Housing
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Recent changes to social housing legislation are having a negative impact on the bottom line for social housing providers. The recent legislation enforcing landlords to cut their rents by 1% per year will be felt once again in April, and each consecutive April until 2020.


While the Government has announced that rents will once more be allowed to increase by inflation plus 1% after this point, the cuts will already have been felt. This change alone means that social housing providers’ income from rent in the coming years will be significantly less than originally projected meaning landlords must look elsewhere to achieve cost savings if they are to protect their bottom line.

Furthermore, changes to Government policy relating to housing benefit have led to a higher turnover of tenants, with changes to tenancy agreements, spending reviews and emphasis on ownership schemes impacting landlord’s re-let times and voids. For many, it means social housing landlords have had to increase their spend on Repair, Maintenance and Improvement (RMI) in an effort to offer higher quality homes and service to tenants. At the same time, however, housing providers must look at ways of reducing long-term expenditure on property maintenance in order to achieve cost savings.

Voids are arguably one of the biggest wastes in housing management. Properties left empty between lettings do not just cost landlords money in lost rent, but they also deny homes to people who desperately need them. The effectiveness of void repairs and maintenance can have a fundamental effect on business objectives.

Here, British Gypsum explores advances in building products as a feasible answer to maximising cost efficiencies in the social housing sector. By extending maintenance cycles, landlords can manage their RMI spends and decrease void maintenance times. Manufacturers have been working hard on introducing feasible building products and materials that can help achieve this objective. These technically advanced products can also offer added value for the tenant, ultimately helping to create happier communities and therefore helping to decrease tenant turnaround.

Strength and durability

Five times stronger than standard plasterboard, Gyproc Habito is an ideal plasterboard for increasing the time period between repairs. Its engineered core provides enhanced levels of strength, durability and fixability with a single No. 10 woodscrew capable of supporting 15kg without the need for specialist fixings or pattressing.

Specifying Gyproc Habito plasterboard for the internal walls can help speed up the building fit-out in a new development with items such as kitchen cupboards, bathroom sinks and curtain poles much easier to fix. In a social housing development, it also empowers tenants to undertake their own DIY tasks such as mounting heavy items like TVs or bookcases, meaning they can add extra touches that will help make the accommodation feel more like their home. Thanks to its durability, once tenants move out, there are just small screw holes left meaning repair costs will be significantly lower than normal.

London Borough Council Newham is one such example where both a social housing provider and its tenants are enjoying the benefits of having Gyproc Habito plasterboard specified as standard across one of its housing developments. Thanks to the robust plasterboard, the properties can withstand everyday wear-and-tear, increasing the time between maintenance call-outs and reducing the total lifetime maintenance cost.

Extended maintenance cycles and cost efficiencies

In terms of plaster products, Thistle DuraFinish can provide up to 60% tougher resistance to accidental damage, again contributing to extended maintenance cycles and reduced ongoing maintenance costs. It is particularly effective for use in high traffic areas such as stairwells and corridors that are prone to damage and also offers the added benefit of greater quality interior spaces for tenants.

Similarly, Thistle Bonding 60 is a revolutionary fast-setting undercoat plaster that has a reduced setting time by as much as two thirds as other standard plasters. Providing a quicker solution for repairing walls, it is ideal for patching homes or chases. The product lends itself to repair and maintenance work because teams can tackle more projects in a day due to the faster completion times.

When it comes to plastering or skimming a painted wall, the traditional solution is to use watered-down PVA or a bonding agent, leave it to dry for an hour or even overnight and then reskim the wall. However, there are now products available that can be applied straight onto painted walls or even textured ceilings without pretreatment, providing a smooth, inert, high-quality surface and a durable base for the application of decorative finishes. This means landlords can redecorate an unoccupied accommodation in a matter of days.

By working with social landlords, manufacturers such as British Gypsum can help reduce maintenance requirements and introduce greater cost efficiencies. Exploring recent advances in building products and materials could hold the solution to extended maintenance cycles and reduced void times. They also pave the way for systems that are beneficial to both tenants and landlords.

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