Blog June 2, 2020

Using technology to help and empower vulnerable tenants

By Graham Hopson

In social housing ensuring the wellbeing of all tenants is always a priority for every local authority or housing association.

Now with advances in technology, it means that there are a wide range of solutions available which can help with this. These can be used to help support and protect vulnerable tenants in order to improve their quality of life and make sure they are kept as safe as possible.

What’s more, as everyone is different and vulnerable tenants have a variety of different requirements the various solutions can be adapted and personalised to meet specific needs, it’s not a one size fits all approach.

This all sounds great right?

Yes but, the reality at time of writing is that the amount of organisations actually implementing technology to support tenants in this way is not as high as you might think.

Uptake is currently slow

In our recent Technology Survey we asked users questions on this subject and the results were telling in terms of lack of adoption within our industry.

  • Only 36.62% of respondents said that their organisation was offering any health-based wearable technology for vulnerable tenants.
  • Only 13.04% are currently using smart-homes, 36.23% said they were looking into them and 50.72% said they had no plans at all around this area.

A growing appetite

Despite the current low uptake, this is an area that should not be overlooked. As more and more tenants adopt technology it means there is a growing appetite to use tech to help improve their way of life.

Look at the current COVID-19 crisis; due to the lockdown conditions many people, including older people who have never used a computer before, found themselves using video calls and more in order to keep in touch with family and friends during this period. Being forced into this has made many realise that technology can bring many benefits and their previous fears have been put aside due to easy-to-use touch screen software interfaces.

Exciting opportunities

So what are the ways in which technology could be used to assist your tenants?

Here is a list of just a few solutions currently on the market which would immediately improve tenant satisfaction and wellbeing:

  • Smart speakers/smart hubs can be used to:
    • Set reminders to pay rent, put bins out etc
    • Turn the kettle on
    • Program timings for the heating (includes manually adjustments too)
    • Program when lights go on and off – as well as manually change lighting via voice commands
    • Open curtains or blinds
  • There are a range of solutions and adaptations available which aid visually impared tenants e.g. video magnifiers, digital voice recorders, reading aids to scan non-braille embossed documents.
  • Monitors to see if the kettle has been boiled in the morning or if the heating has been switched on in winter which helps you monitor if a tenant is as active as they usually are.
  • Personal alarms to warn about falls, heart rate monitors and lifeline alarm services.
  • Dementia memory aid solutions including – clocks with time and date reminders, locator systems to prevent losing items like keys and digital pill dispensers.
  • Facial recognition door entry systems

The list could go on and on! It’s an exciting time.

Is it a bit Big Brother?

One of the common pullbacks about technology relates to privacy and some of the above ideas could in fairness be seen as being a bit Big Brother.

However in certain situations, monitoring a vulnerable tenant is the best way to safeguard their wellbeing. There are ways in which you can do this which can soften the approach and seem a bit less like spying and intruding on their independence. For example we spoke to one of our customers who are already using technology to support their tenants and they are offering a choice for their customer. They can choose to have a family member receive the alerts rather than the housing association and ‘check up calls’ after an alert will be from a more familiar face/voice.

Let us know your views

Whether you’re for or against this type of technology we feel the introduction of it across our industry will begin to grow over the next few years, as it provides a cost-effective way of ensuring tenants are safe due to it not requiring hours and hours of staff time.

What are your organisation’s plans around smart-homes, IoT and tech for vulnerable tenants? Get in touch with us and let us know if you have plans to implement any of the above or if you’re already using them.

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