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This Housing Asset Management Forum was sponsored by Bailey Garner, a multi-disciplinary construction company.  

High-level regional portfolio reviews 

The first session looked at high-level regional portfolio reviews and heard first from Neill Campbell, Partner at BPTW and Robert Pratt, Senior Housing Consultant at FFT. 

Robert set out the challenging context that housing providers are currently grappling with including building safety, the zero carbon challenge and increasing regulatory scrutiny on existing stock and conditions.  

They undertake housing area audits to help clients make decisions over their stock. The work at different levels – a high level one looks at strategic priorities, and alongside this a detailed examination of the portfolio to identify issues and potential, and potentially looking at the customers profile too. They then look at the different options available – which could include environmental improvements, changes to the built fabric, tenure flexing to create more mixed communities and selective sale of void properties.  Architectural analysis then deepens understanding by developing metrics and potential interventions for different stock groupings.  

Neil explained how they look at stock assessment when working with clients on three levels: 

  • A traffic light system, analysing the existing stock. It sets criteria to filter stock and identify which stock to look at in more detail 
  • Capacity studies – on selected dwellings or sites.  
  • Feasibility studies, which include looking at viability.  

He outlined a range of case studies with social landlords which used these three levels of analysis to identify sites suitable for redevelopment. A key theme to come out of the discussion in this session was the need to consider sites in their wider context. There is often a trade-off between bringing them forward quickly and maximising their potential – taking longer to assemble bigger sites or a coordinated approach across a wider area can be worthwhile.  

Remedying damp and mould in existing stock 

The forum then turned its attention to the topical area of damp and mould in housing.   

Sonny Cook, Associate Partner at Baily Garner told the forum about the toolkit that they are developing. They have seen an unprecedented demand for damp and mould surveys in recent months. This will be the third in a suite of toolkits, as they published two toolkits last year one focussed on the Future Homes Standard, and the other on Retrofitting existing homes. The new one will focus on damp and mould and looks at the causes of mould and damp including the impact of lifestyle, the health risks, diagnosis and solutions.  

The government report on mould and damp calls for social landlords to take stronger action against mould and damp and the Social Housing Regulation Bill is likely to strengthen this. Around 4% of social homes in the UK suffer from ‘notable’ damp issues. Rates are higher in the private rented sector. Sonny pointed out that it is undeniably the case that lifestyles do have an impact on the level of mould and damp in a property – though landlords need to recognise that not all aspects of ‘lifestyle’ are things that a tenant can do much about – such as overcrowding. Around 8% of social homes are overcrowded, alongside 5% of private rented homes – this has increased over the last 20 years. Heating is one of the primary mechanisms to control mould and damp. However, many households cannot afford to heat their homes to an adequate temperature.  

Health risks from mould and damp include respiratory problems, skin conditions and mental ill health. All depend in part on the vulnerability of the individuals.  

The toolkit will then look condensation and building pathology. Solutions include insulation, ventilation and information that could be provided to residents on things they can do. Their toolkit includes costings to assist clients with, and identification of high-risk properties, based on building type, insulation, etc.  

Paul Morris, Assistant Building Surveyor at Baily Garner, then outlined some recent case studies of work that they’ve done with a local authority. Forty properties were put forward by the authority, based on reports of problems with damp and mould by tenants. The properties were a mix of different types and ages. They were relatively high-EPC rated (C and above), but nevertheless had problems. Surveys found no evidence of penetrating damp so concluded that it was caused by condensation. They did identify problems with ventilation within the problems and also some failed double-glazing units. All had functional heating systems, but the tenants weren’t always using heating the home to a sufficient temperature. The produce an abridged HSSRS report, focussing on key issues. This allows a schedule of costs to be produced, based on the survey recommendations.  

The forum discussed the role of environmental sensors and AI/machine learning. These can create additional data could add to what surveys find, as surveys may not always detect damp, depending on the weather conditions and season. It also generates some more independent data on tenant behaviour, such as using heating or opening windows.  

The link between decarbonisation and addressing damp and mould was discussed. Sonny said that identifying the homes at highest risk of damp and mould could help identify where to focus efforts, though there is still a need to react responsively to problems.  

The issue of staff skills was discussed. Paul said that identifying damp and mould was not technically challenging. Staff ought to be able to see it and also identify likely causes – For instance, if damp is appearing in certain places, it might indicate that loft insulation has not been fitted right to the edge. Social housing staff could easily be trained to spot this sort of thing.  but identifying what needs doing and ensuring that it is done properly is the focus needs to be. 

Links to Bailey Garners toolkits: They are hoping to publish the new toolkit in June or July.

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