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Mayor for the West Midlands gives speech at Switchee Summit

Last week, the Switchee Summit returned to recognise, celebrate, and amplify efforts to innovate in the affordable housing sector.
Switchee Summit

One in eleven UK households are in the grip of fuel poverty (Housing Fuel Poverty Index, powered by Switchee, 4 March 2024).

There is a huge focus on finding customer-centric solutions to the cost-of-living crisis by Local Authorities and social housing providers alike.

Bringing together leaders across the sector, the Switchee Summit returned on Wednesday 28 February at the Black Country Living Museum, to recognise, celebrate, and amplify efforts to innovate in the affordable housing sector. The aim of the day was to explore how industry peers are already innovating to tackle key industry challenges, including fuel poverty, damp and mould, and resident communications.

Mayor of the West Midlands, Andy Street, is a champion for positive change in social housing and delivered a keynote speech that set out how the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) is improving housing standards, including how £15mn funding from Government is being used to upgrade WMCA’s housing stock.
Andy Street, Mayor for the West Midlands, and Chair of the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) said: “Much of the region’s social housing stock urgently needs upgrading which is why I was so pleased that the WMCA was able to secure £15mn from the Government to help local councils and others make a start in tackling some of the dampest, coldest and mouldiest homes.

“Substandard housing is not only a health hazard for those people living in them but also a major contributor to poor quality of life overall. It is also a key factor in the high fuel poverty rates we see in some parts of the West Midlands.

“That’s why I’m a keen supporter of technology that can bring positive change in social housing and of companies like Switchee. Their products help landlords identify where issues such as damp and mould are most acute and act, improving the quality of life for their tenants in a tangible and meaningful way.”

Setting out how innovative technology can be used successfully to help tackle issues like fuel poverty and mould in social housing, Switchee CEO, Tom Robins, challenged social housing landlords and Local Authorities to harness ready-to-roll solutions to monitor energy, mould and improve communications with residents.
The Switchee Summit gave insight into:

• Awaab’s Lab – a workshop hosted by Switchee’s Head of Customer Success, Kate Roberts, and Prima Group Chief Executive, John Ghader. The purpose of the workshop was to bring together social housing peers to discuss timescales for repairs in the social rented sector, as well as a discussion on what the obligations mean for them, how to navigate the changes and the impact these will have for residents.

The workshop began with a show of hands to demonstrate how many were aware of Awaab’s Law, and a subsequent show of hands to show who felt they fully understood what will be required of landlord’s when it becomes legislation. Most attendees were aware of Awaab’s Law, however only 1% felt really prepared for it. Further supporting the need for this workshop. John carefully laid out all the elements of Awaab’s Law that we’re aware of to date, as well as highlighting some of the uncertainties. For example, repairs will need to be completed within a ‘reasonable amount of time’ but without any guidance as to how long that is. Housing providers, like Prima, are taking this opportunity to create profiles of their residents, working with the NHS to reveal the hotspots of prevalent health conditions as well as opening conversations with their residents to gain a fuller picture of residents’ real experiences and their vulnerabilities.

• The Housing Fuel Poverty Index, powered by Switchee – an update on the latest trend data to come out of the industry leading research, as published quarterly by Inside Housing. The findings showed that the Fuel Poverty rate in the West Midlands is consistently almost 2% higher than the average for the UK. The level of Fuel Poverty has fallen slightly from last winter; however, levels are still 50% above two winters ago. Whilst we are starting to see falls in energy prices, the level of consumer energy bill debt has skyrocketed across the UK, and this is still clearly having a significant impact on households.

• Other speakers included Former-Head of Innovation at the UK Ministry of Defence, Susie Braam, Director for the Built Environment at Sovereign Network Group, Jim Dyer, and Head of Research at Pi Labs, Luke Graham.

Tom Robins, Switchee CEO, said: “We’re thrilled to have created a space to bring together professionals in the social housing sector to tackle common challenges. We were particularly grateful to the Mayor of the West Midlands, Andy Street, for taking the time to visit us and address the audience about all the good things the West Midlands Combined Authority are doing for affordable housing in the region.

It was important to us to facilitate a workshop on Awaab’s Law in the lead up to the consultation response deadline and learn how partners in the sector – like Switchee – can support Housing Providers in understanding and proactively meeting the upcoming laws and regulations”.

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