The world has changed. Housing has not.

By Lee Sugden, chief executive at Salix Homes

We are in the grips of a revolution -  a digital revolution.

Three years ago, never would I have imagined you could have restaurant-quality food from the comfort of your own sofa at 3am; order a taxi at the click of a button whenever and wherever you need one; or get your shopping delivered straight to your door in under an hour.

And even further from my thoughts was that I’d be able to get my digital friend ‘Alexa’ to do it all for me.

But thanks to the progressive, forward-thinking companies like Deliveroo, Uber and Amazon, that is today’s reality.

But sadly, we, the housing sector has failed to keep up.

The world has changed. Housing has not. At least not enough.

The fact is we are living in a 24/7 world. The days of a successful business operating during the hours of 9am-5pm have been banished into the realms of history.

This digital revolution and the rapid rise of social media platforms have burst into our lives creating this ‘always on’ culture making it possible to reach customers, and for them to reach us, with just a few taps of their phone at any time of day or night.

By 2020, there will be 6.1 billion smartphone users globally, and every person will have six connected devices. We have to be ready for this.

People’s expectations have changed – there’s a culture of immediacy and people want things yesterday.

The demographic of our customers is changing too. We are increasingly providing homes to millennials, yet are broadly failing to provide the services they’ve come to expect in the modern world.

When a customer calls us to report an urgent repair and we say we will fix it in three days – the digital generation of millennials will not accept this – and why should they?

It’s quite staggering to believe in this day and age that we still run weekly rent debits - this is a throwback to the days when people were paid weekly, but how many people do you know that still pick up their weekly wages in a brown envelope every Friday?

So why is the housing sector still stood on the starting block, when other industries are racing towards the horizon?

The fact is we have been shackled by old legacies, infrastructure, processes and a culture of ‘this is how we’ve always done things’.

The sector hasn’t been ambitious enough in what we want to achieve and there’s an underlying fear to grasp the bull by the horns and take some measured risks.

But these rapid technological advances, coupled with Brexit, political uncertainty, welfare reforms and a growing housing crisis, mean we can’t just sit back any more.

With these changes come opportunities – the chance to rethink who we are and how we do things. The chance to create a truly digital service for our customers and the chance to develop a stronger, united voice to tackle the housing crisis.

In the new economy, the most successful businesses are those who take measured risks and respond to customers’ expectations. Amazon didn’t get where it is today, by just ‘doing what they’ve always done.’

Today, Salix Homes launches its new five-year plan – Rethinking Housing, which meets these challenges head-on with the ambition and forward-thinking vision we pride ourselves on.

Salix Homes has begun its journey to become an ultra-modern, housing association of the future.

I’m putting the challenge out there to ourselves, and the wider housing sector, to stop and rethink the way we do things in order to meet customers’ needs and expectations in the new world.

The time is right to ‘rethink housing’. Are you ready?