Regulator right about stock condition survey comments.

By · 30 May 2023

I very much enjoyed the insightful discussion with Social Housing’s CEO Fiona McGregor who was the keynote speaker for Inside Government’s Asset Management Conference I chaired at the end of April.

I was relieved to hear how in tune our Regulator is with the challenges our sector is facing: Building Safety and Retrofit costs compounded by the general inflation that is impacting everyone including our vulnerable residents.  Fiona also outlined the timetable for new regulations and that the Social Housing Regulator will receive additional resources to help implement and enforce those when necessary.

But above all her emphasis that ‘data underpins everything’ resonated the most for me.  As the founder of BIM4Housing Associations and member of the Building Regulations Advisory Committee on the Golden Thread, I couldn’t agree more.  This thematic challenge is one of many reasons why I am so excited to join the team at ARK where my colleagues also recognise the importance of data.

None of the team here were surprised to read Inside Housing’s 10 May article quoting Fiona that ‘Five-year stock condition surveys may no longer be enough’ and that “There is probably a need for a bit of a rebasing of how well you know your stock in the round, and then can you move to that rolling survey methodology?”

The annual reports from many social housing providers present a picture that yes, of course, they have a firm grip on the condition of their stock, and a steady hand at the data management wheelhouse.  Put all those reports together and take them at face value then we’d be able to push back and ask, ‘Fiona, what are you talking about?  This is in hand.’

But that is not honestly the case, and you’d have to be an ostrich to miss the litany of damning investigations, reports, government announcements and bad press about stock condition-related failures.  Sometimes these are not fair.  But many times, they are. A simple comparison of the information captured by the English Housing Survey and typical data capture by many social landlords is all that is needed to demonstrate the disparity from the average RP survey and what is really needed.  Yes, there is a cost to gather and manage more data, but the value for money of using the eyes and ears that are there on that day and doing something useful with it is, we think, a compelling argument to invest more.

The Boards of most social landlords will know the 30-year investment requirements (tantamount to a 30-year weather forecast) of their stock but how many are aware of how many properties they own that have deficiencies solely attributable to their design, construction and/or maintenance? Similarly, how many Boards are comfortable with the low bar Decent Homes Standard being their organisation’s aspirational standard rather the trigger point for action that the Government intended?

Stock condition surveys have, over time and to varying degrees, become stock investment surveys rather than stock condition surveys.  They are carried out at the lowest price points without quality controls.  They discharge requirements to inform long-term financial forecasts but pressures on cost and constraints imposed by typical data management are major factors why this is an issue and focal point for the Regulator.

At ARK, we support housing providers in this area all the time.  We regularly set stock condition survey briefs for our clients, always tailored to their bespoke requirements. We carry out audits on those delivering condition surveys and we deliver learning and development programmes to clients seeking to upskill their direct labour organisations so they can conduct stock condition surveys themselves to a high standard.

A strategic approach to capturing more data about individual properties and converting that data systematically and holistically into actionable information that drives good decisions is intrinsic to ARK’s DNA.  We really do think outside of the normal swim lanes and are innovators when it comes to triangulating a variety of data sources into something useful at a practical level.

We recognise the cost implications impacting finite financial budgets and will always recommend using ARK’s multi-dimensional asset evaluation and grading model, ASAP, to leverage your existing property, finance and other key metrics.  It is not only the clear concise insights from its dashboards but the way of thinking it enables by guiding where to drill down into details by area, estate and dwelling. It is a very useful tool for recalibrating the frequency and depth of stock condition surveying activities. 

Another ancillary benefit from deploying the model is the process around ASAP.  Our data experts are experienced and well versed in converting raw housing data into the ASAP model and make it relevant and bespoke to your organisation’s particulars and priorities. They cleanse, test and sense check your data. It is a useful health check that clients have used to adjust their stock condition approaches from “gaps” we identify and benchmark on data against peers.

ARK is a multidisciplinary management and technical consultancy working throughout the UK. We predominantly work with Housing Associations and Local Authorities providing end-to-end asset management services, working with several clients on their stock condition using our proprietary ASAP model.

To learn how Jack can provide support and deliver value to your organisation, contact him at jostrofsky@arkconsultancy.co.uk or call 0121 5153831.

Jack Ostrofsky

Director

Jack has extensive experience across the property lifecycle spanning from construction and development to asset management and retrofit. His focus on decarbonisation, building safety, design and technical management has remained consistent throughout his career.

Within ARK, Jack provides strategic leadership as well as technical support to our clients in key areas which include building safety, sustainability, and asset management.

 

 

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