How Can Housing Associations Accomplish More with Less?   Tom Hedges March 27, 2024

How Can Housing Associations Accomplish More with Less?  

The landscape of the UK’s housing sector is changing rapidly. Gone are the days of low-interest rates and inflation; today, resource constraints have become a reality and operating margins are tight.  

As such, housing associations need to adapt and find ways to achieve more with limited resources. In this article, we explore how they can navigate these challenges and maximise their potential through technology.  

How Are Housing Associations’ Operating Margins Changing?   

A recent report by Housemark discusses the current financial challenges the sector is facing due to inflation, rising interest rates, and investment in existing stock. A few key figures to note are as follows:  

  • Operating margins dropped for 75% of landlords (25% of which recorded a drop of more than five percentage points within the past year).  
  • The median return on capital employed has reduced by around 32% over the past five years. 
  • The average social housing cost per unit rose by more than £400 between 2021/22 and 2022/23.  
  • The average cost per unit is forecast to increase by £300-£500 in 2023/24.  

The report is based on data from 181 landlords in England that have more than 1,000 homes. It also states that, historically, larger landlords had better margins due to economies of scale but these have reduced by a larger proportion over the past year, since their business models lend to greater exposure to financial challenges.  

Overall, the report suggests that, despite the predicted reduction in inflation over the next couple of years, income isn’t likely to increase in real terms. As such, margins will remain tight until the mid to late 2020s. 

How Can Technology Help Housing Associations? 

At SDS, we have pledged to help end the ongoing shortage of housing through our software, which helps developers navigate uncertainties with resilience. Here’s how.  

Appraisal Software 

Given the current situation, financial control and monitoring has never been more critical. Proper oversight is essential to ensure that every pound is used efficiently, and this is where robust appraisal software makes a huge difference. The software: 

  • Automates and streamlines the process of assessing the value of properties and assets, and helps to ensure compliance. This saves time and money by reducing the need for manual, paper-based processes and by minimising the risk of errors or inconsistencies in the appraisal process. 
  • Accurately performs complex calculations. 
  • Minimises admin.  
  • Provides more accurate and up-to-date information which enables better-informed decisions about how to allocate financial resources.  
  • Enables more effective management of portfolios through analytics. 
  • Generates reports and insights that can inform strategic planning and decision-making.  

Let’s take a closer look at some of the key features our appraisal software offers.  

Appraisal Creation  

The appraisal creation tool lets housing associations confidently appraise projects of any scale, including an unlimited number of mixed tenures within a single financial appraisal, with viability results displayed for each dwelling type. Eliminating the need for separate assessments streamlines the appraisal process, enabling users to quickly identify the key income drivers that contribute to the scheme’s success.  

What’s more, the tool allows for the seamless integration of dwellings from your library, making it convenient to generate fast and comprehensive results for diverse projects. It also provides a centralised platform for organising and accessing all appraisals, offering quick previews of each scheme’s financial overview. 

Risk Assessment 

Appraisal software plays a crucial role in enhancing risk assessment for housing associations. Thanks to advanced data analytics and scenario modelling capabilities, it enables the thorough evaluation of potential risks associated with various projects and strategies. 

Our sensitivity calculator simplifies sensitivity analysis for every appraisal. Users can employ default scenarios for efficient testing or customise their scenarios to conduct rapid sensitivity assessments repeatedly.  

This not only expedites the process but also allows for the generation of accurate sensitivity reports with a single click. Additionally, the software preserves data from all tests, ensuring detailed evidence of financial viability checks for audit purposes. 

Reporting  

ProVal automates report generation directly from your appraisal and financial data, eliminating the need for redundant data entry. With the option to create customised reports, you can effortlessly export them in Excel, Word, or PDF formats. You can also run reports on any information stored in your database.  

Land Valuation Software  

Of course, land valuation also demands precision and efficiency. Land valuation software is designed to streamline the process and enable informed decisions. It simplifies the calculation of land values, eliminates administrative burdens, and enables the swift analysis of development costs.  

Our cloud based software was programmed with the affordable housing sector in mind. It also:  

  • Calibrates appraisals to target profit margins, land values and step-changes. 
  • Helps in assessing opportunities and potential issues quickly and accurately, so our customers can make the right decisions.  
  • Offers stress testing tools so that developers can examine the gearing effect of sales values and increased costs.  
  • Standardises information for better visibility throughout our customers’ organisations. 
  • Helps users save time thanks to default and custom appendices, which allow for quick and consistent appraisals. Users can enter as much or as little information as the situation requires.  
Property Development Project Management Software 

This software serves as a crucial tool for housing associations aiming to achieve more with fewer resources. It centralises project data and automates various tasks, enhancing efficiency and productivity. It also streamlines communication among team members and stakeholders, reduces the risk of errors, improves workflows, and has robust reporting tools for real-time insights. Here are a few highlights of our project management software, Sequel.  

Cost Control 

Our Monitoring Tool helps forecast future expenses and maintain financial oversight effectively. Importing data from appraisal models into Sequel enables the creation of cashflows, whether for an entire scheme or individual tenures.  

In addition, the software facilitates easy comparison of the latest estimates with the approved budget and imports transactions for the real-time monitoring of cashflow status. It also provides valuable insights into outturn loan, net present value (NPV), and interest figures.  

Contractor Management  

The software comes with the People Hub, a place to store information on all contacts associated with each project, including construction companies, architects, maintenance contractors, and consultants.  

A user-friendly traffic light system monitors crucial metrics, such as the validity of insurance dates and compliance with financial viability limits for contractors.  

In addition, it simplifies purchase order input by automatically linking them to cashflows, enhancing overall project efficiency and organisation. 

Conclusion 

The housing sector is no stranger to uncertainty, but thanks to technology, it’s more equipped than ever to manage it. Given the predictions about operating margins, now’s the time to take advantage of the innovations supporting the sector – to harness them and accomplish more with fewer resources.  

SDS is leading the way in providing solutions that enhance financial control and efficiency, and give housing associations the agility to adapt and respond quickly. To see how our software can help you unlock your organisation’s development potential, book a discovery call today.  

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