HomeSwapper, by MRI: Building Communities

Our HomeSwapper system is the leading platform for mutual exchange in the UK and the only service facilitating tenant-led placement in the Republic of Ireland. The platform empowers social housing tenants to source a mutual exchange from the largest community of swappers and their properties in the country. Alongside this mutual exchange service, HomeSwapper offers a comprehensive suite of support for tenants to find the right homes for their needs.

Many of the software solutions offered within the social housing sector exist to reduce time spent in lengthy regulatory requirements, to support housing maintenance or to predict and ensure the sustainability of tenancies. These products are adopted by housing providers in order to save staff time and to ensure cost effectiveness for local authorities and registered providers so that they can re-invest in the tenants that need their support the most.

Within this environment, HomeSwapper is a refreshing solution, enabling tenants across the country to speak to one another, self-organise and to exercise control over their tenancies. The drivers for HomeSwapper users are often on an emotional spectrum, with the platform empowering tenants to find a house that not only suits their needs but that feels like ‘home’. Through the platform, the power of choice is returned to the tenant.

Building the community

There’s no getting around it; achieving a mutual exchange takes time. In most cases it takes a concerted effort on the part of the tenant and is a more time-consuming task than the activity of simply logging onto HomeSwapper once and finding that ‘perfect match’. What this has meant for MRI is the delivery of robust business-to-customer channels for the platform in order to strengthen the community of swappers and enhance their experience.

In recent times, many landlords within the social housing sector have adapted their processes to deliver a more customer-centric experience with open dialogue between tenant and landlord. The HomeSwapper model has mirrored and supported this tenant-first approach, listening to and responding to the tenant voice.

The tenant website was set up to ensure that swappers had easy access to the resources that would help them to use the platform in the most effective way. The tenant blog that sits within this site, in its primary function is there to make sure users can learn how to use the site to ensure their best chances of finding a swap, to understand the actions to take with their landlord once they have found that swap, as well as any regulatory changes that might affect this process and their lives in social housing.

The voice of tenants actively using the platform is engaged with through this support site to create content that resonates with the HomeSwapper community and shows support for their shared struggle in the quest for a new home. The strong community that exists within HomeSwapper is supportive, with members behaving like neighbours; a sentiment that is enhanced by the use of these so-called ‘swapper stories’.

This lady wanted to get out and move from Dorset as soon as possible. She was registered disabled and had a stairlift in the house; the house she then had to move into had to be adapted. We befriended this lady and her family and were talking on the phone a lot and trying all these different types of MultiSwaps for people who wanted to move to our house. Eventually we found one that was quite close to where we were. That person came to view our house and I went to do the viewing for the lady in Dorset because she couldn’t come up herself. I took loads of pictures and videos and sent them to her.

HomeSwapper user, Carl

The tenant and landlord community

Across 2019/2020, one strand of the community management for HomeSwapper has been to align the conversations activated across the MRI Social Housing blog and social media channels for a landlord audience with the tenant channels for HomeSwapper.

The topics that are of most strategic importance to the social housing sector are those that directly impact and are therefore, of great importance also to social housing tenants. As such, communications within this sector are about telling the same story from different points of view.

Much of the content produced within this space on the MRI Social Housing blog sits under the recurring theme of ‘Building Sustainable Tenancies’. These articles explore the subjects most likely to impact both tenant wellbeing and a landlord’s management of stock, such as antisocial behaviour or fuel poverty – both topics that have also been addressed on the HomeSwapper blog for tenants.

Interestingly, one of the most popular articles amongst HomeSwapper tenants is one that gives them an insight into a landlord feature for advertising empty properties within the platform: Void Properties: What This Means. This is of course, in tune with wider concerns at the heart of the social housing sector, concerns that were covered for landlords in an article about the UK’s empty homes here on the MRI blog. There is little precedence for this approach of aligning tenant and landlord conversations, however the success of the recently published article on void properties shows there is a remit for matching their concerns.

HomeSwapper is the ultimate local community platform – the majority of users could in fact, be neighbours with an average swap distance on HomeSwapper of only 26 miles. The guiding forces and the power of HomeSwapper remain those of personal empowerment and inter-community engagement. By treating tenants and landlords as part of the same community we recognise that they exist within the same structures and are impacted by many of the same issues. Our purpose in changing the frame of the conversation assumes that the reason our software is designed to solve a problem for a landlord is in order to solve the same problems for the tenant.

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