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Opinion: Neighbourhub - a new approach to neighbourhood assessment, management and improvement

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Opinion: Neighbourhub - a new approach to neighbourhood assessment, management and improvement

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Published by Max Salsbury for 24dash.com in Housing

Opinion: Neighbourhub - a new approach to neighbourhood assessment, management and improvement Opinion: Neighbourhub - a new approach to neighbourhood assessment, management and improvement

By Steve Mather, neighbourhoods investment director, Places for People

It’s a challenging time for the housing sector.

An uncertain economy, budget cuts, welfare reforms, improving efficiency and demonstrating value for money are just some of the challenges we’re facing.  

With this in mind, decisions about where investment should be made can be difficult. Registered Providers need to evidence that any money spent will have demonstrable benefits while ensuring their business and neighbourhoods are profitable and sustainable.

The sector readily accepts the importance of good property management and the effect it has on customer satisfaction and, in turn, the bottom line.

The same can now be said for our neighbourhoods and communities. Many customers choose a home based on the area or neighbourhood it is in – so it’s vital that we look at neighbourhood investment as strategically as the investment we make into our properties.

As an organisation managing over 800 neighbourhoods, we needed a system to help us understand neighbourhood performance and enable us to focus investment where it was needed.  The current market wasn’t offering a solution so working with the performance management and data warehousing solutions provider Visualmetrics, we created Neighbourhub.

Neighbourhub provides a comprehensive approach to neighbourhood assessment, management and improvement. Neighbourhub defines, measure and analyses neighbourhood performance in real time. It reduces turnover, arrears and repair costs, improves stakeholder perceptions, and increases customer satisfaction and neighbourhood profitability.

The Neighbourhood Dashboard provides critical real time data which monitors the performance of each neighbourhood against financial and performance management measures, such as turnover, arrears, void loss and repairs costs. This also provides detailed comparative data for each neighbourhood over the last three years.

Alongside this, an annual assessment measures all neighbourhoods against key performance indicators including, surplus per property, turnover, repairs per property and future investment needs. Comparisons can quickly be made and neighbourhoods banded as green, amber or red.

A Neighbourhood Planning workbook helps to identify and deliver appropriate interventions in underperforming neighbourhoods (Amber). Continuous improvement is delivered by housing managers in neighbourhoods that are already performing well (Green).

If neighbourhoods are classified as Red, operational teams undertake option appraisals which consider possible solutions which can include investment; disposal and demolition.

Places for People has been using Neighbourhub since 2010/11. It has put operational staff in control of the management of their neighbourhoods by providing accessible, meaningful and up-to-date data. It has also promoted organisational change as staff have become more financially aware and it has driven operational efficiencies.

So what are the figures?

We have seen significant results in financial performance, housing management performance and improved customer satisfaction.

In 2013/14, profitability in all regions has increased between 5% and 17%. 21 of the Neighbourhood Planning areas have moved from Amber to Green. Customer satisfaction has also improved.

In one area of Nottingham, turnovers, re-let times and voids were high and the negative reputation of the area was affecting lettings. The dashboard identified issues immediately, a Neighbourhood Plan was developed and appropriate solutions and interventions were put in place. The Neighbourhood Planning workbook supported teams across the business to work together and decide on the most appropriate measures, which included supporting customers to understand welfare reforms, tackling anti-social behaviour and developing a bespoke lettings plan.

As a result of these changes, property turnover reduced from 30.9% to 17.5%. Repair costs reduced by 64% and surplus per property for the neighbourhood increased by £179k per annum.

The success of Neighbourhub has sparked interest from across the sector. It was recognised as ‘Product of the Year’ at the recent Housing Excellence Awards and we’re working with a number of housing providers that have seen how Neighbourhub can drive organisational change, improve performance and increase profitability.

Neighbourhood management and investment is changing. It’s becoming more strategic and innovative. End-to-end solutions like Neighbourhub are helping organisations become more profitable and are supporting operational teams to make the case for investment – great news for both customers and housing providers.

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