Last year, we celebrated 50 years in this wonderful sector – presenting us with the opportunity to reflect on our contribution to the sector so far and to plan our future direction.
We have delivered high quality affordable homes to tens of thousands of residents over the last 50 years, in particular independent living homes for older and vulnerable adults. We now have 5,000 properties across the North West, North East and Yorkshire and Derbyshire and 7,000 residents.
While our core proposition remains the same now as it always was, ‘providing quality homes at affordable prices’, our residents will be living much longer than those before them. Off our 7175 residents, 17% are over currently 80. That position is reflected across the sector and presents significant challenges for leaders of housing associations up and down the country. I have shared the top challenges we are facing as the leadership team at Johnnie Johnson Housing, and an insight into how we are tackling some those issues, strengthening the vision for our future.
1. Investment in our existing properties Vs new build
We must ensure that we are delivering homes that residents really want to live in which are affordable to them. We aim to achieve a healthy balance between reinvestment in our existing homes (which could be up to 50 years old and not necessarily fit for purpose for an ageing population) and developing new homes that can offer a more modern and innovative lifestyle for our residents. We are looking at what other colleagues in the private and public sectors do, and their examples of successes”
We have started on a programme of reinvestment into a number of our existing properties to make them more attractive for applicants of the future including redeveloping our bedsit accommodation into loft style living studio apartments. We have also committed to building another 1,000 new homes that will promote lifestyle and wellbeing. A significant proportion of these (around 70 per cent) will support the ever growing number of people who are living longer, with facilities that allow them to live more independently. The challenge of working with our partners to find the right locations with transport, shops and social activities nearby, and at the right price, has begun.
Of course, we also continue to work closely with our local authorities to understand their housing needs and to support them with the delivery of the right affordable housing in the right areas, with both new and existing stock.
2. Making accurate decisions based on knowledge and insight
We have placed our residents very firmly at the centre of our vision and planning for our future homes and services. Each part of our business makes decisions using accurate customer insight. We had a great opportunity this year to engage with our older residents more closely, gathering insight and data, and making sure we truly understand them.
We have created a set of customer personas, which is designed to give a snapshot of our typical customers and demonstrate how our customer profile is changing. We use these personas to change perceptions of a particular demographic, which are not always accurate, therefore supporting the business to make more informed decisions. Our current insight shows a changing landscape, one that we must now react to as a responsive business:
- Almost one in four of our heads of households are now over the age of 80
- Our tenure is increasing from six years to seven years
- The number of couples living with us has doubled in the last ten years
- We are starting to see a shift in our resident demographic from 60%/40% to 55%/45% female to male.
3. Smart Technology – supporting our residents to live longer, better lives in their own homes
Astraline is Johnnie Johnson’s 24/7 emergency telecare response service which supports residents who want to live independently in their own homes. It is now also one of the leading providers of Technology Enabled Care in the industry and is revolutionising care for elderly people. Astraline are heavily involved in the development of smart technology solutions, and have developed a design led collaborative approach, working alongside our residents.
We have moved on leaps and bounds since the pull chord. Astraline is now starting to install smart and intuitive solutions into our residents’ homes using voice activation, GPS, sensors and activity monitoring. Not only can they help to keep residents safe both inside and outside the home, they can spot potential health problems early on in residents so we can be proactive with their care at the earliest possibility.
Some of the challenges we still have to overcome include affordability, usability, and the stigma associated with wearable products which identify a user’s vulnerability.
With nine out of ten older people wishing to live in their own homes and an increase in declining health, including Dementia-related illnesses, housing organisations like ours will need to be innovative and flexible to ensure we continue to deliver outstanding services. We must have the right people to drive through transformation and that starts at Board level. Making sure our Board members have the appropriate skills, experience and knowledge to support transformational change is critical to our success.
Johnnie Johnson Housing are an associate sponsor of the Housing LIN’s annual conference Vision 2020 on 26 March in Manchester.