HACT and rent-flex have published a white paper exploring the benefits of flexible rent services for both residents and social housing organisations.
In light of growing arrears and issues around tenancy sustainment, the white paper, Paid in full: Putting residents in control, seeks to boost tenant empowerment to provide increased flexibility around how and when they pay their rent.
Commenting on the white paper, Andrew van Doorn, chief executive of HACT, said: “Rent arrears and tenancy sustainment are growing challenges in our sector.
“Recent estimates suggest arrears will continue to have a significant impact on the income of housing associations into next year.
“At the same time, we know that social housing residents are facing increasing economic hardship, and many are struggling to pay their rent every month.
“This white paper looks at rent-flex as an empowering solution to tenancy sustainment challenges.
“As a platform that gives residents the opportunity to develop personalised rent payment plans for the year ahead, our white paper finds that the benefits of rent-flex, for residents and the wider business of social housing organisations, are extensive, helping them to deliver on their social purpose.”
Damon Gibbons, executive director of the Centre for Responsible Credit, who has led the development of rent-flex, said: “Rent-flex has been developed with the active involvement of social housing tenants.
“Many of them face reasonably predictable financial pinch-points in the year, such as at Christmas.
“Others have volatile incomes. By personalising rent payment schedules to reflect the reality of people’s lives, rent-flex can reduce the need to borrow (often at high-cost) to makes ends meet.
“And the new digital platform we have created allows tenants to indicate what other financial support they require and alert their landlords easily to any changes in circumstance over the year.
“We are really excited that the digital scheme is now live for trialling with Optivo and look forward to developing further trials in the sector.”
The white paper draws on the results of a rent-flex pilot with Optivo tenants to determine the key benefits of the service. These include:
- Improved engagement: Tenants liked the concept of rent-flex and were more likely to engage with it than with existing financial or budgeting support services
- Increased financial benefits to residents: As part of the onboarding process, residents were able to be engaged with budgeting support and income maximisation services, which yielded significant benefits
- Improved rent payment: Residents who completed 12 months of rent-flex in the manual pilot paid 98.4% of their contractual rent, compared with 90% of the control group
- Improved relationships and satisfaction: There was an increase in inbound contact from residents using rent-flex, as well as greater success with outbound contacts, and the quality of conversations with tenants increased
“The evidence indicates that rent-flex could help housing providers reduce the costs of rent collection; improve cash flow, forecasting increase visibility of rental income; and target tenancy sustainment initiatives at those most in need,” Andrew van Doorn continued.
“rent-flex also has the potential to transform the landlord-tenant relationship by creating a joint-planning approach to the management of rent payments, whilst simultaneously improving residents’ financial resilience, health and wellbeing, and giving them greater control of their finances and lives.”
The rent-flex platform is expected to soon be available to other social landlords for testing.
HACT partners with organisations across the social housing sector to drive value for residents and communities.
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