The new normal in social housing procurement

Increased regulatory and financial constraints on local authorities, such as social rent cuts of 1 per cent each year from 2016-2020, and welfare reforms mean that social housing providers need to find ways of stretching their budgets to meet the need to build new affordable housing and maintain existing stock. Finding opportunities to make savings on construction, refurbishment, repair and maintenance is therefore a priority.

Prevention better than the cure

Taking a more preventative planned approach to maintenance as opposed to the much more costly one of waiting for a problem to arise before fixing it is therefore the way to go. As part of such an approach, social housing providers could, at the same time, consider making earlier adaptations to meet the housing needs of an ageing population. According to the Institute for Public Policy Research, by 2030 there will be 50 per cent more over-65s – and more than double the number of over-85s – alive in England than in 2010. And because 80 per cent of the homes we will be living in by 2050 are already built, efforts to extend the lifetime value of refurbishments by making them sufficiently flexible and practical to appeal to and meet the needs of all age groups should be front of mind for social housing providers.

Homes that anyone could live in

It makes a lot of sense for housing associations to find ways of futureproofing the investment they are making today in their refurbishment and building programmes. One way this can be achieved is by choosing contemporary interior products which just happen to be suitable for inclusive living. Floor level showers, essential for many with limited mobility wouldn’t look out of place in any home. Similarly, installation of slip-resistant waterproof flooring, which provides extra traction and stability; and easy-clean surfaces illustrate how unobtrusive adaptations can be introduced even before they are needed on the grounds of age-related mobility or frailty. From a whole host of perspectives, making small adaptations at the same time as repairs and maintenance or locking them into building specifications, has real benefits, not least being the improvement of the quality of life of residents over their lifetimes. We can benefit economically as well from introducing adaptations at an early stage. Analysis from the Building Research Establishment shows that, making minor practical home adaptations along with other home improvements can lead to annual savings for the NHS and social care services of at least £500m through a 26 per cent reduction in falls. These currently account for over 4m hospital bed days each year in England alone.

Long-term benefits for housing providers

Whilst some of the adaptations considered will benefit residents through the various stages of their lives, they can also be of immediate and long-term value to housing providers. Many practical adaptations are very easy, quick and economic to install. Waterproof wall panels and flooring in bathrooms and wet rooms, for instance, provide durable watertight spaces that reduce the risk of water ingress from one unit damaging properties in the floors below. And because these sorts of products are extremely robust, requiring very little maintenance, ongoing repair and maintenance bills can be considerably reduced.

Up-front savings

Multipanel waterproof wall panels can be fitted directly to almost any surface, including existing tiles or straight onto studwork. They can be fitted and ready to use in just 24 hours, ensuring that units are fit to re-let much more quickly. Waterproof wall panels are up to three times quicker to install than tiles, says Multipanel’s Key Accounts Director, Michael Dobson, “and as they require no additional tradesmen to install, the resultant cost savings that can be achieved by switching from tiles is considerable –typically up to £20 per m2. “On a modest bathroom refurb project comprising, say 50 properties, for example, with average size bathrooms, the overall savings could be as much as £5,000. Even more, if you factor in shorter void periods between tenancies which result from getting the job done faster.” The Centre for Better Ageing predicts that 96 per cent of us will continue to live in mainstream housing in later life. We therefore need to be thinking of the ways in which we maintain, adapt and create homes to make them suitable for inclusive living – homes that are just as appealing to say, an able-bodied person and his family, as they would be to an older person with declining mobility.

About Multipanel

When it comes to manufacturing products to achieve completely watertight low maintenance bathrooms and kitchens, Multipanel are the industry experts. With a history of innovation spanning over 135 years, Multipanel is at the forefront in manufacturing waterproof wall panels, vinyl and wet room flooring, and ceilings that enable housing professionals to create great looking, practical, waterproof interiors —ones that tenants will enjoy and appreciate. The ease with which our products can be installed, together with negligible ongoing maintenance, makes our products a clear choice in the social housing sector. For more information, contact michael.dobson(Replace this parenthesis with the @ sign) or visit

Case study example

For Simon Bonney, Disabled Adaptation Supervisor at Plymouth Community Homes, choosing Multipanel waterproof wall panels is all part of his approach to refurbishment. “We gravitate towards quality products that are easy to install in our properties as this helps us to get work done quickly, thereby reducing the time taken to adapt a property to provide a mobility solution that supports the most suitable adaptation. Simon manages hundreds of bathroom adaptations each year, and his contractors recently completed three refurbishments using waterproof bathroom wall panels. These were for family homes where restricted mobility needs had to be factored in. Residents were allowed to choose the colour scheme and were, according to Simon, extremely pleased with the finish. “Our residents, he says, “are now able to maintain their living area more effectively due to the easy-to-clean wall panels — great for all our residents, but particularly so for those who have mobility issues which impacts their ability to clean tiles and grout.”