The ‘Make Do and Mend’ approach has been the subject of debate for a long time. Many people question its effectiveness, while others recognise that it represents a well-intentioned effort to make sure all homes meet adequate standards.
When it comes to managing their properties and making repairs, Housing Providers are often limited by their financial status, and this has led to an increase in popularity for the ‘Make Do and Mend’ approach. To be in accordance with Net Zero initiatives, Social Landlords expect to pay between £2,500 to £50,000 per property in order to meet with the current Government decarbonisation targets. These added costs combined with a lack of effective funding schemes leave Landlords with few choices when it comes to rolling out larger retrofit projects across their properties. That is why the ‘Make Do and Mend’ approach has become so prevalent in recent years. Housing Providers feel they have no other options and would rather implement temporary repairs than no repairs at all.
But is this really a cost-effective method?
Is ‘Make Do and Mend’ a viable long-term solution?
While, in the short-term, a ‘Make Do and Mend’ approach can help Housing Providers save money, it is far more likely to lead to recurring problems in the future. This is due to the fact that this approach focuses on addressing the symptoms rather than focusing on the cause. As Inside Housing reports, many projects start off with the best of intentions. Unfortunately, these are often tactical, not strategic, projects which result in the deployment of multiple different solutions to address one problem, leading to larger costs in the long run.
With the implementation of Fitness for Human Habitation laws and an increased move toward decarbonisation, there is a greater demand than ever for cost friendly repairs. With this far-reaching call for repairs, there is a severe lack of government funding available for Housing Providers and so the ‘Make Do and Mend’ approach is oftentimes the only available avenue that providers can take. It comes down to replacement versus repairs. While there are some schemes in place that mandate replacement, such as the boiler replacement scheme, many areas are continually overlooked. This leads to a trend of patch-it-up fixes that cost more money in the long run. The worry is that Housing Providers are not budgeting for future replacements which, when it is no longer cost effective to rely on repairs, could cause a huge problem. Where will this money come from? With a wide range of properties to manage, Housing Providers need to find a way to identify and support the most at-risk properties. This is why a move towards digitisation is vital.
How does Smart Technology fit into this picture?
Smart Technology gives Housing Providers the ability to remotely monitor and assess their properties. The technology can keep track of household conditions such as the average temperature, absolute humidity, and air quality, allowing landlords to assess the data at their convenience. This information paints a digital picture of individual properties allowing Landlords to gain key insight into their homes and allowing them to make targeted repairs. Smart Technology can help predict future problems, giving the Housing Providers time to make pre-emptive repairs rather than reactive ones. This limits the risk of additional damage and helps bring down the overall costs, it also ensures that all residents have access to a safe and comfortable home which is the central aim of the Social Housing sector.
By collecting data on their properties, Landlords can easily identify at-risk homes and prioritise them for maintenance work. This gives Housing Providers the chance to stretch their budget further, ensuring that all their properties reach a high standard. Smart Technology can help predict future maintenance issues, giving Housing Providers time to implement repairs before the issue takes root. Senior Contracts Manager at Gasway, Andy Merrill, said that the Switchee Smart Thermostat allowed them to ‘test boilers before the winter’ and identify those that needed to be repaired or replaced before the ‘winter peak’ allowing them to be ‘proactive in fixing issues before they affect customers’. Not only does this minimise disruption to the tenant, but it also helps Housing Providers to better manage their repair costs.
Digitisation greatly benefits Landlords and Tenants alike. Smart Technology developments can save residents up to 17% on their energy bills, cutting costs for the tenant and making the property more energy efficient for the Landlord. Digitisation also creates a channel for Housing Providers to communicate directly with their residents, enabling them to schedule maintenance visits in a simple and convenient manner while being able to see when the resident has received and read the notice. With the 2018 FFHH laws, Landlords are now immediately liable for damages found in the common area of their properties even if they were not reported by the residents. This puts Housing Providers at greater risk of litigation so, by using Smart Technology to strengthen lines of communication, Landlords can work with residents to identify maintenance issues before they spiral out of control.
Where Do We Go from Here?
The effects of the Covid-19 pandemic have forced the hands of Housing Providers across the country by pushing them to invest in digitised solutions. With in-person visits now increasingly more difficult to schedule, due to the changing lockdown regulations and increased health risks, many providers have had to rely on Smart Technology in order to monitor their properties. This has exposed Landlords to the multitude of benefits digitisation holds.
Through the implementation of Smart Technology and an overall shift toward Digitisation, Housing Providers have been able to follow Government Health advice by conducting virtual check-ins with their residents. The usage of Smart Screens, such as the ones found on Switchee’s Smart Thermostat, also gives them the opportunity to communicate directly with tenants to gather valuable feedback on the repairs process and how it has impacted the residents. This information can then be used to influence procedures going forward, creating a network of trust between Housing Providers and their residents, and help ensure that properties align with Government standards. If maintained, this new method could continue to benefit Landlords in a Post-Covid society by increasing resident engagement and strengthening lines of communication for years to come.